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Celebration of Swami Purnanand's 40 years in Mauritius

Posted on 2003/6/25 9:49:02 ( 2140 reads )


PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS, June 25, 2003: The Hindu organizations of Mauritius are honoring Pujya Swami Purnanandji Maharaj for his 40 years of religious service to the county during a month-long celebration this June. His 75th birthday is being celebrated this month along with a whole series of activities. This program was initiated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Sanatan Sarvodaye Sabha and Human Service Trust and other Hindu organizations. The leaders of the Hindu Maha Sabha (HMS), Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation, Arya Sabha (Mauritius), Mauritius Marathi Mandali Federation and Ramayan Center came together to praise the man who they consider "an institution." Hallooman Girdharee, of the HMS, says the swami is considered as one of the religious leaders having had the biggest influence in the life of the Hindus of Mauritius. He was a pioneer in the organization of processions "in the sanatanist way" by interpreting bhajanas and kirtans (pious songs) and by popularizing prayer sessions such as the Bhagwat Katha and by establishing traditional ashrams in the country. The celebration will culminate on June 29 at the prestigious Indira Gandhi Cultural Center in Phoenix. The cultural program this day will be by performers from Chandigarh, India. On this occasion, the organizers also plan to present Dharma Bhushan Awards to ten social workers of Mauritius. During the last 40 years, Swami Purnanandji Maharaj has founded the Shree Sanatan Sarvodaye Sabha de Triolet (1970); Sarvodaye Ashram de Triolet (1972); Shantiniketan Vidoushi Sabha de Terre-Rouge (1974); Shree Satyanarain Mandir de Terre-Rouge (1991); International Nature Cure Center de Grand-Baie (2000) and Somnath Mandir de Triolet (2002).

Kumbha Mela Fever Grips Nashik

Posted on 2003/6/25 9:48:02 ( 1133 reads )


NASHIK, INDIA, June 24, 2003: Nashik and Trimbakeshwar are currently in the midst of intense activity as they prepare for the thousands of pilgrims anticipated for the Sinhashtha Kumbha Mela or the Festival of the Nectar of Immortality. Over 2,500 people are working in three shifts to erect 35,000 sheds on 840 plots, each 4,000 sq. ft in area, at Tapovan on the banks of the Godavari. Elsewhere, a 100-bed hospital, computerized railway and bus reservation counters, two hi-tech communication centers and ration and utility shops are taking shape, while US$2,361,528.55 is being spent on half-a-dozen bathing ghats at the confluence of Ahilya-Godavari and Gangasagar reservoir in Trimbakeshwar.

Sadhus have already begun to arrive on horses, elephants and camels, while palanquins and chariots are being embellished with silver, gold and woodwork. The Maharashtran Government is expecting over 300,500 sadhus and 750,000 devotees between July and August. In 1992 220,000 devotees thronged the Godavari on the main parvani (auspicious day) alone. This year more than 400,000 are expected. "It is tough to manage the crowd in the monsoon, but not impossible," says Mahesh Zagade, district collector, Nashik, who is coordinating the seven special committees set up for the event.

Austrian Magistrate Says Hinduism Not a Recognized Religion

Posted on 2003/6/25 9:47:02 ( 1101 reads )


VIENNA, AUSTRIA, June 20, 2003: Mr. Ashok Kaushal, a Hindu living in Vienna, Austria, has been refused by Austrian authorities to register himself and his son as Hindus. Mr. Kaushal, born in India as a Hindu has been living in Austria more than 15 years and is an Austrian citizen. When he recently had to reregister his documents in Vienna, the magistrate refused to put into his birth certificate "Hindu" as his religious denomination. He explained that Hinduism is not a "recognized" religion in Austria and therefore left blank the column of the religion in the document. The same thing happened when Mr. Kaushal went to register the birth of his son Tejas, who was born June 7, 2003. The magistrate refused to register him as a Hindu also and issued his birth certificate without a religious denomination. Austrian authorities are neglecting the fundamental human right of religious freedom while not recognizing one of the oldest religions in the world with more than 1.5 billion followers, according to this release from Yoga in Daily Life. For additional information, kindly contact "source" above.

President Mbeki Invited to South Africa's First Hindu Convention

Posted on 2003/6/24 9:49:02 ( 1020 reads )


SOUTH AFRICA, June 24, 2003: South African President Thabo Mbeki has been invited to that country's first Hindu convention later this year. Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, said the September convention would focus on the challenges facing Hindus in post-apartheid South Africa. "Our objective is unity among all Hindu organizations. We need to have a unified approach to meet the challenges that face Hindus, for example, the issue of conversions, with Hindus moving to Christianity," he said. "Also the question of uniformity in different religious organizations and observance of religious festivals and ceremonies will be discussed." Between 500 and 1,000 delegates are expected to attend. Among the topics which will be discussed are nurturing the Hindu religion, the need for Hindu representation at all levels of government and the roles and functions of Hindu priests in South Africa.

No Elephant for Lord Jagannath's Annual Chariot Festival

Posted on 2003/6/24 9:48:02 ( 1070 reads )


PURI, ORISSA, June 22, 2003: The elephant will no longer be used as part of the age-old rituals in the annual rath yatra (car festival) of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, which begins on July 1. The temple authorities have decided to break with the tradition of an elephant leading the procession of the Puri king from his palace to the three chariots, parked near the Temple's Lion Gate. Last year Laxmi, an elephant who came all the way from Varanasi to perform the ritual, died, and the Temple authorities came under severe criticism from the general public as well as the wildlife lovers for not attending on the ailing elephant properly. Also, as a result, the Temple management was accused of being in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Arranging an elephant became a problem for the Temple management after the Nandankanan Zoo Authority in nearby Bhubaneswar refused to part with its pet elephants, Prema and Basanti, to lead the procession of the Puri Gajapati in 2000 car festival. For decades Prema was used in the rituals as she was docile, obedient and better trained by the mahut to accommodate the surging crowd during the car festival. Basanti, the other female elephant of the zoo, also accompanied her for at least five years. The practice of using elephants from the zoo was discontinued in 2000 when the two female elephants on their way to participate in the car festival damaged several houses near Patia village. Wildlife officials attributed the behavior of these two elephants to the loud honking by a passing vehicle. Since then, the zoo authority decided not to send them to participate in the festival. A senior zoo official said the crowd behavior, the traffic and the road condition had changed over the years and were no longer conducive for the elephants to join the rituals as it would be difficult to ensure everyone's security. Moreover, the mahut who used to guide and interact with Prema for over a decade is no longer alive, and the zoo officials felt that it would be too dangerous to send Prema to the car festival with another mahut.

UK Hinduism Syllabus Asserts the "Divinity of Man" is Hinduism's Central Tenet

Posted on 2003/6/23 9:49:02 ( 1070 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, June 22, 2003: The London Examination Board has agreed that the belief in the "Divinity of man" is the central concept of Hinduism, replacing the belief that the hereditary caste system was the "central" belief of Hinduism. "Even at short notice the board has agreed that our candidates do not have to answer questions on caste [on the official Hinduism exam], and that they will not be disadvantaged for ignoring all 'caste questions'," says Dilip Lakhani of the Vivekananda Center London

In the process of tackling the issue of caste, the Vivekananda Center London had requested some Hindu organizations in the U.K. to support this stand. Most rose to the occasion and immediately issued letters of support, one being the Swaminarayan Fellowship temples, which gave immediate and full backing. However, a few organizations continued to support the idea of caste (which strictly means hereditary caste as far as the syllabus is concerned) and notified educational bodies of their opinion. "First we must learn about the treasures we possess, only then can we hope to portray them correctly to the West. The very poor image the West has of Hinduism is to a large extent our own fault," says Mr. Lakhani.

Examining Dowry in India

Posted on 2003/6/23 9:48:02 ( 1020 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, June 14, 2003: Srimati Basu, anthropology professor at DePauw University, U.S., has been tackling the complex system of dowry, explaining its origins and why it is still perpetuated in East Indian culture. Basu calls dowry the Indian women's oppression under patriarchal systems and says that it is expanding into all communities in India. Families with daughters have resorted to drastic means to cover dowry payments, including some fathers selling their kidneys. The Dowry Prohibition Act has done little to curb the practice as it excludes voluntary gifts, and there is no way of proving that the gifts are not voluntary. The problem is multidimensional, Basu believes, and must be looked at in the context of "broader gender subordination and the effects of capitalist processes." Thus the focus must be on protesting dowry and strengthening claims for parental inheritance, all the while working to change the social attitude toward daughters and making sure that women have another source of security besides marriage. Veena Talwar Oldenburg in her book "Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime" studied dowry in the Punjab. She explains that before colonial times dowry was, "Put together by the bride's female relatives, partly from their own jewelry but partly from setting aside household resources. This benefited women because it gave them a fund of their own." The anti-dowry movement lost momentum in the nineties, but it has been spearheaded again by the All-India Democratic Women's Association who organized a workshop in September 2002. One of the resolutions of this organization is to start a national campaign against dowry, keeping in mind that the issue is "related to structural inequalities in Indian society."

School-Related Suicide Alerts the State That Change is Imperative

Posted on 2003/6/23 9:47:02 ( 1002 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 17, 2003: It often takes a tragedy of magnitude to call attention to a matter of grave importance. Ramu Abhinav's suicide in Chennai has alerted the human rights commission in Tamil Nadu to demand a full investigation into the circumstances. It is too late for 16-year old Ramu whose suicide note indicated that he was fed up with school. Relatives and classmates attested to the fact that Ramu was recently beaten by his teacher for not attending a special coaching class, and this was not the first time a beating had occurred. "One of Ramu's cousins who left the school a few years ago and is now studying engineering at university -- says the behavior of the staff at the school was brutal and impulsive." Other students have come out into the open and have described punishment in a cell-like dark room, where they were stripped and the teacher's identity could not be ascertained. Both human and child rights activists are loudly proclaiming and blaming the beatings on outdated education laws which permit corporal punishment. On one side, the human rights activists want to see the present laws completely abolished. However Aludai Pillai, former vice-chancellor of Madurai University, says that an expert committee has been appointed to update the rules. Pillai adds, "We dismissed a teacher when we came to know about it. Corporal punishment in front of classmates causes enormous mental agony affecting his personality."

AIDS Victim Encourages Potential Couples to be Tested for HIV

Posted on 2003/6/23 9:46:02 ( 960 reads )


ASSAM, INDIA, June 14, 2003: It is common practice in East Indian culture for couples to have their astrology done to see if they will be compatible in marriage. However Goswami, a resident of Assam, feels that the public should be aware that it would be in their best interest if the potential couple go for a blood test to rule out being HIV-positive. From her own sad experience Goswami explains, "Soon after my marriage I found that my husband was often ill, complaining of various ailments from herpes to fever and coughs. A few days before his death, he told me he had AIDS." By that time, Goswami had contracted the disease herself. Rather than hide from her adversity, Goswami went public with her burden in the hopes of making the public aware of the disease and she became a counselor with the AIDS Control Society in Assam. Some 100,000 HIV-positive patients live in the northeast which borders the heroin-producing Golden Triangle of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand and has high rates of intravenous drug use. Goswami herself faced much discrimination after going public about her illness, and she was forced to move more than a dozen times. Her in-laws even accused her of infecting her husband. However, she has persevered, and says, "Today I am targeting students in Assam and trying to make them aware about how to prevent AIDS and how the virus spreads. I want to live a life with dignity and show people how to avoid a silent and painful death."

Mt. Kailash Project

Posted on 2003/6/23 9:45:02 ( 1035 reads )


INDIA, June 13, 2003: In 1998 H.H. Chidananda Saraswati (Pujya Muniji) traveled to the holy land of Mansarovar and Mt. Kailash, in Tibet, with H.H. Swami Gurusharananandji Maharaj and H.H. Sant Shri Rameshbhai Oza. While there he saw the desperateness of the local situation; there were no medical facilities for hundreds of miles. People frequently suffered or even died from basic, treatable altitude sickness due to lack of medical attention. There is no indoor place to stay -- all must camp in tents. Pujya Muniji vowed that he would do something for the local people and for all the pilgrims who travel there. After two-and-a-half years spent in discussions with the Chinese government and the Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Tourism for the region, he finally obtained permission for the project. In December, 2000, permission was granted to build an ashram and a hospital in the sacred land. The project is hoped to be a spring board for other, much needed, humanitarian projects in the area, including schools, vocational training programs, etc. July 13, 2003, is Full Moon day -- Guru Purnima Day at Mansarovar. The opening ceremony of the ashram and a special Guru Purnima puja as well as cultural programs will be held at Lake Mansarovar on this auspicious day.

Mahatma Gandhi's Tolstoy Farm to be Renovated

Posted on 2003/6/23 9:44:02 ( 1121 reads )


JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, June 15, 2003: The long abandoned Tolstoy Farm in Johannesburg, established by Mahatma Gandhi to promote the philosophy of Satyagraha, peace and harmony, is to get a fresh lease of life with a group of Indian-origin youth volunteering to restore it. The farm, situated about 45 km east of Johannesburg, has become run down and was abandoned after the new owners took over the farm in the 1960s. "The renovation committee was established after it was found that very few children of people of Indian origin knew anything about Gandhi or the famous farm," member of the Gandhi Remembrance Committee, Ms. Sandra Singh said. The committee is made up of 10 people comprising of Hindus, Christians, Muslims and one black African.

Singh said the endeavor is an attempt to revitalize the values of peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for different cultures that Gandhi promoted. She said when tourists come from India, one of the things they look forward to is to retrace the footsteps of Gandhi in the Johannesburg area, and Tolstoy Farm is one of the things they ask about. Tolstoy Farm in Johannesburg and the Phoenix Settlement in Durban are two of the most important features left behind by Gandhi in South Africa after he spent more than 22 years in the country in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

"Celestial Music Radio" Online 24/7

Posted on 2003/6/20 9:49:02 ( 1178 reads )


PLANET EARTH, June 20, 2003: Celestial Music Radio, an internet radio station, is now on the air twenty-four hours a day via your computer. They play an eclectic mix of kirtan, chanting, music and poetry by such celestial musicians as Krishna Das, Bhagavan Das, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, George Harrison and many more. The station also broadcasts talks on Ayurveda and spirituality. Listening is free by registering with the site.

Teachers Warned Against Corporal Punishment

Posted on 2003/6/20 9:48:02 ( 930 reads )


UDUPI, INDIA, June 17, 2003: The Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, B.K. Chandrashekar, said on Monday that the Government would take action against teachers who strike students. He was speaking after inaugurating the Kundapur Education Society's Pre-University College at Kundapur. Prof. Chandrashekar said teachers who used corporal punishment would be dismissed and said it was incumbent upon teachers to teach their subjects creatively.

Hindu Sunday School

Posted on 2003/6/20 9:47:02 ( 990 reads )

Hartford Courant

MIDDLETOWN, CONNECTICUT, June 16, 2003: More than 50 children who range from ages 4 to 15 fill the Sri Satyanarayana Temple's downstairs room every Sunday. The Temple's Sunday school is one of about a half-dozen Sunday schools within a temple in the country, said Jyotish Parekh, president of VHP of America, a religious and cultural organization based in New York with chapters in 30 states. On a recent afternoon, the kindergartners were on stage, practicing a song in English and Sanskrit for the temple's first Sunday school graduation ceremony. The temple has been a haven for their immigrant parents, but it holds less appeal for American-born Hindu youths. As a result, the temple has been forced to reinvent itself. Temple leaders started the Sunday school a year ago. While the concept of Sunday school is unknown in India, it fits neatly into the American way of life. The curriculum, created by parents and members who act as teachers, is a systematic way of transferring a complex blend of beliefs and practices to the next generation. "It's amazing to me how easy it is for them to understand some really complex, esoteric topics by using artwork, songs and dance," said Divya Jyothi Difazio, who teaches at the temple. "They can now explain these concepts to a Western friend, who might come over to their house and see a shrine with an elephant-headed figure. They can explain the significance, and that they don't worship elephants."

China Clears the Way for Kailash Pilgrimage

Posted on 2003/6/19 9:49:02 ( 947 reads )


New Delhi, INDIA, June 18, 2003: Chinese authorities have cleared the way for people from India wishing to undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, officials announced Wednesday. The yatra had been delayed due to concern over SARS. An External Affairs Ministry spokesman said the first batch of 30 persons will go on the pilgrimage next month, followed by nine other batches each consisting of up to 40 people. The Kailash Mansarovar is one of the holiest pilgrimages in the Hindu religion with worshipers undertaking an arduous several-day journey to reach the isolated Kailash mountain and Mansarovar lake.

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