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Kashmir's Sharda Script Endangered

Posted on 2003/1/7 8:49:02 ( 895 reads )


SRINAGAR, INDIA, January 4, 2003: In a place where hundreds of people have died in terrorist attacks for over a decade, the death of a script has gone unnoticed. Sharda, the script that gave Kashmir its former name, Sharda Desha, is understood by few Kashmiris today. One of the last Sharda scholars in Srinagar, Professor T. N. Kunju, cannot keep pace with the documentation required -- 300 books need to be catalogued. The last man who could read the script in the Srinagar University library retired 30 years ago. "I had to carry an apron and duster to go through the works in Sharda in the library. Very little of it remains," says Prof. Kunju. "Most of the rare books could be found in the libraries of Kashmiri Pandits. They left the books behind. These were later sold by the kilos," he added. Sharda evolved as a direct descendant of Brahmi and has been in use in Kashmir from the ninth century AD until recently. It's the script in which Kashmiri language came to be written and until 30 years ago, horoscopes and birth records were written in Sharda. Today, the young write Kashmiri in Urdu and Devanagiri. It is hoped that perhaps temple priests can read Sharda. however, a trip to the Mata Khir Bhawaniji temple in Ganderbal north of Srinagar tells another story. No one there has heard of Sharda. A visit to the Sankaracharya temple in Srinagar is little different. As part of a Discovery Channel-UNESCO effort to increase awareness about endangered languages in the world, Discovery will air its dying languages series beginning February. Sharda is part of this project and hopefully, someone will be inspired to take up its cause.

Malaysia Celebrates Thai Pusam

Posted on 2003/1/7 8:48:02 ( 894 reads )

Source: News Reports

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, January 7, 2003: Thai Pusam celebrations at Malaysia's famous Batu Caves Murugan Temple will be held January 18 to 20. Approximately one million devotees will gather at Batu Caves and half a million in Penang to worship Lord Muruga.

Kerala Muslim Minister Criticized for Wearing Tilak

Posted on 2003/1/7 8:47:02 ( 932 reads )


KERALA, INDIA, January 3, 2003: Muslim organizations have demanded Kerala's Minister for Local Government, Cherkalam Abdullah, a Muslim, should do penance for wearing a tilak at a function in Sringeri Mutt recently. As a result of Mr. Abdullah's actions, The Sunni Youth League has barred the minister from entering mosques. "It is nothing but blasphemy. A true Muslim is not supposed to observe the customs of another religion. Since he has defied the Muslim tenet he is not supposed to enter the mosque," League president Syed Ummarali Tangal said. "He can salvage the situation by observing a strict penance," another leader said. The minister, a Muslim League nominee in the government, responded, "I went along with the Chief Minister to attend a function. Everyone was welcomed with tilak and arati. They applied tilak on my forehead (the traditional greeting). I did nothing on my own."

Villagers Reconvert to the Hindu Fold

Posted on 2003/1/6 8:49:02 ( 804 reads )


KHALLARI, INDIA, December 30, 2002: One hundred Christian families from Saraipali village along with another one hundred families participated in a ceremony whereby they were brought back into the Hindu fold. Hailing from the Mahasamund District, each Hindu devotee had their feet washed and tilak applied. Dileep Singh Judev, a member of the Hindu Sangam organizing the reconversion, said, "Conversion in the country is being managed by powerful conspirators from across the seven seas, but these people are being countered even with our limited resources."

Announcement - Murugan Conference in Malaysia

Posted on 2003/1/6 8:48:02 ( 924 reads )


KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, December 30, 2002: The third International Murugan-Skanda Seminar will be held this year on May 1-4, 2003 in Kuala Lumpar. Devotees of Lord Murugan from around the world are invited to attend. Registration for the event is US$100 and includes accommodation and meals. Participants in the formal program are requested to submit their presentations to the organizers by February 15, 2003. The conference will be inaugurated at the famous Batu Cave Shrine on May 1 at 10 a.m. Contact 'source' above for a more detailed outline of the conference's events.

Hinduism Today Seeks Contacts in Bangkok

Posted on 2003/1/6 8:47:02 ( 945 reads )


KAUAI, HAWAII, January 6, 2003: Hinduism Today is seeking a Hindu organization or individual in Bangkok to assist with the visit of our correspondent to the country in the beginning of February. We are in need of contacts among the local Hindu population. Kindly e-mail "source" above.

Tamil Nadu's Ancient Gene Pool Discovered

Posted on 2003/1/5 8:49:02 ( 828 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, January 5, 2003: India's East Coast, especially along Tamil Nadu, is increasingly drawing the attention of archaeologists and anthropologists from across the world for its evolutionary and historical secrets. The focus has sharpened after genetic scientist Spencer Wells found strains of genes in some communities of Tamil Nadu that were present in the early man of Africa. In the "Journey of Man" aired by the National Geographic channel, Wells says the first wave of migration of early man from Africa took place 60,000 years ago along the continent's east coast to India. Genetic mapping of local populations provided the evidence. R.M. Pitchappan, a professor of Madurai Kamaraj University in Tamil Nadu, helped Wells collect the gene evidence from Tamil Nadu's Piramalai Kallar people, inhabiting the Madurai and Usilampatti areas 500 km south of Chennai. The community was once quite strong and independent. Their genes have the amino acid bands found in the gene map of the original man from Africa, and similar to bands in the Australian aborigines. Says Pitchappan, "The ancestors of the Kallar community may have come into India from the Middle East." Wells believes there were three waves of migration that early man undertook. According to Mr. Wells and his Indian collaborator, early man went from Africa to the Middle East, on to Kutch on India's west coast, all the around to the peninsula's east coast and then on to Australia. "These gene pools are unique and very accurately map the path a population has taken, leaving behind original communities to grow into independent groups but with a common ancestor," explains Pitchappan.

Tamil Nadu's Ancient Cities May Predate Mesopotamian Civilization

Posted on 2003/1/5 8:48:02 ( 422 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, January 5, 2003: A British marine archaeologist Graham Hancock has been examining a submerged city on the East Coast of Tamil Nadu. Mr. Hancock says a civilization thriving there may predate the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia in present-day Iraq and definitely existed before the Harappan civilization in India and Pakistan. He has been excavating the site off the coast of Poompuhar, near Nagapattinam, 400 km south of Chennai. At a meeting of the Mythic Society in Bangalore in early December, Mr. Hancock said underwater explorations in 2001 provided evidence that corroborated Tamil mythological stories of ancient floods. He said tidal waves of 400 feet or more could have swallowed this flourishing port city any time between 17,000 and 7,000 years ago, the date of the last Ice Age. The Gulf of Cambay was also submerged, taking with it evidence of early man's migration. The populations Mr. Wells and Mr. Pitchappan (see previous article) mapped settled on India's East Coast 50,000 to 35,000 years ago and developed into modern man. According to Hancock, "the Poompuhar underwater site could well provide evidence that it was the cradle of modern civilization." Hancock's theory is strengthened by findings of India's National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), which has explored the site since the 1980s. Man-made structures like well rims, horseshoe-shaped building sites are some of the lost city's secrets. At low tide, some brick structures from the Sangam era are still visible in places like Vanagiri. The region, archaeologists say, has been built over and over again through the ages and some of its past is now being revealed. Mr. Glenn Milne, a British geologist from Durham University, has confirmed Hancock's theory.

Deepavali in Birmingham an Interfaith Event

Posted on 2003/1/5 8:47:02 ( 891 reads )

Source: Press Reports

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, December 24, 2002: In an effort to promote cross-cultural links, the city of Birmingham, England, connected the annual Deepavali celebration with the lighting of the towns' Christmas lights. Held in November the annual event attracted over 5000 people, three quarters of whom were Hindu or Sikh. Indian music, prayer, dance and fireworks plus children's rides and food tents filled Centenary Square, with exhibitions by students at the Repertory Theater. The exhibitions included a cultural zone where a mock Indian wedding was held using a Manap (traditional four-poster carriage), a "spiritual zone" with classical Indian music and meditation and a children's area.

Hindus, Taoists Celebrate the New Year Together

Posted on 2003/1/4 8:49:02 ( 960 reads )


SINGAPORE, January 1, 2003: About 500 devotees welcomed the New Year together yesterday in a special prayer session held by two adjoining temples in Yishun, one Taoist and the other Hindu. Carrying a milk pot, Mr. Chua Peng Aik, 69, joined other Taoists and Hindus to usher in the New Year. Both temples had been situated side by side in Teachers' Estate for more than 60 years before moving to Yishun in 1998, after the Government acquired the old site. Apart from New Year, both temples also celebrate together other occasions, such as Tua Pek Gong's birthday and the Hungry Ghost Festival. Said Taoist Ow Kun How, who took part in the procession, "The Gods that Taoists and Hindus pray to are very similar, so it doesn't really matter." Hindu priest P. Pashpathi said, "We teach the Chinese how to pray to the Hindu deities and the Indians how to pray to the Chinese Gods. The regulars pray to both automatically now."

India's NGOs Asked to Reassess Their Roles

Posted on 2003/1/4 8:48:02 ( 855 reads )

Source: Press Reports

KANCHIPURAM, INDIA, December 31, 2002: The Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt recently released a book that contains guidelines for NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), many of which have faced criticism for indirectly inciting religious conversions through their development initiatives. "Government Schemes and the Role and Responsibilities of Non-Government Organizations," published by a new NGO in the state called Aravind Foundation, subtly conveyed the message that development NGOs should reassess their roles. H.H. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi's blessings for the book comes after his praise for Tamil Nadu's law to ban forcible religious conversions. The Sankaracharya said he released the book in an effort to help hasten rural economic development. Eradicating poverty was the best way to ensure honesty, he said. His Holiness's remarks are significant, coming as they do when many NGOs are facing charges of packaging their development initiatives with an eye on religious conversions.

Evangelists' Letter Upsets Siva Devotee

Posted on 2003/1/4 8:47:02 ( 886 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, December 31,2002: Evangelists D. G. S. Dinakaran and Paul Dinakaran sparked a controversy by sending a letter to Matchi Shiva Sokkalinga Raja Vadivu Thevar, an ardent Siva devotee and authority on Saivism, expressing their happiness over Raja Vadivu's visit to "Prayer Tower," the headquarters of the Jesus Calls Trust in Chennai, and requesting him to send his testimony, if any, and prayer requests. With the recipient of this letter, the question has been raised of under what provision of the anti-conversion law can the founders of Jesus Calls Trust be booked? The letter, which said that Raja Vadivu's prayer request had landed in their hands and that they had prayed for him, has angered Mr. Vadivu, who has never gone to the Prayer Tower premises or sought the evangelists' help in any way. Mr. Vadivu wanted to know from Chief Minister Jayalalithaa how he could proceed against the father-son duo of evangelists, for he sees in the letter an attempt to convert him to Christianity. He also said it damaged his reputation as an ardent Hindu.

Andra Pradesh Privatizes Poor Temples

Posted on 2003/1/3 8:49:02 ( 914 reads )

Source: Deccan Chronicle

HYDERABAD, INDIA, December 29, 2002: It was recently announced that the State government will be pulling out of low revenue earning or "loss-making" temples. The priests of at least 24,000 temples which earn below US$500 each per annum must now search for ways to generate resources. Following the government's decision, these temples will not get the minimum allocations even for conducting daily rituals. Official sources said the government's decision was a fall-out of the Endowments Department's unwillingness to bear the established expenditures for these temples after the government implemented pay scales for temple priests. The Supreme Court had allowed the State government to take away endowment lands under the control of the priests and instead pay them salaries. "The minimum additional expenditure for the government on account of payment of salaries to priests in this category of temples would be around two million dollars every month, while the existing grants for annual maintenance will be around $5,000," a senior Endowments Department official said. The State government was of the view that it would be better to lose control over these temples rather than pay the priests' salaries. In the new system, the Endowments Department will ask the temple priests to meet the expenditure out of the hundi collections and submit accounts annually. On the other hand, the government has been making efforts to take control of the profitable Shirdi Sai Baba temples and the Chilkur Balaji temple.

Delaware Swaminarayan Fellowship Buys Evangelist's Church

Posted on 2003/1/3 8:48:02 ( 849 reads )

Source: Associated Press

DELAWARE, UNITED STATES, December 30, 2002: Evangelist Leroy Jenkins plans to move to Columbus, Ohio, as part of a real-estate deal in which a Hindu temple would be placed at the site of his current church in the state of Delaware. Jenkins said he wants to operate his church in a former hotel on Columbus' east side, but that he eventually plans to buy property and build a cathedral. He announced the move, on Sunday during his church service at Healing Waters Cathedral. Tom Shelat, owner of the east side hotel, said that he is working out a deal with Jenkins to purchase the Healing Waters complex. In return, he would lease space at the hotel to Jenkins for his Sunday services. Shelat said the cathedral would be renamed the Y-D-Hindu Swaminarayan Temple. He said the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism is 220 years old and has 3,000,000 practitioners worldwide. It stresses a vegetarian, nonsmoking lifestyle. Shelat also said the church has enough space to allow men and women to worship at the same time in separate rooms.

India's Natural Dyes Bring Shades of Brilliance

Posted on 2002/12/31 8:49:02 ( 933 reads )


DINDIGUL, INDIA, December 29, 2002: Bharathan cannot resist crushing a flower or fruit that he chances upon. His experiment with 426 plants and natural substances for over 15 years has resulted in 120 color-fast, eco-friendly, natural dyes. The 39-year-old's passion for natural colors began in school. Bharathan's pictures stood out for the brilliance of the turmeric's yellow, the red from beetroot and the black of charcoal. "In our culture, color is associated with regions, seasons, religions, festivals and emotions," he says. "It is difficult not to be taken in by it." Bharathan was raised at Sowbhagya Illam orphanage at Gandhigram in Tamil Nadu. In 1986,with a postgraduate in economics, he started work at a mill in Kumarapalaiyam. Here he learned to make and use dyes, but the chemicals in synthetic dye production often caused his skin to break out, and he quit the job. He found work as a textile technician at the Gandhigram Trust and continued his experiments with natural dyes. In 2001, the Central government's department of science and technology funded a project to establish a Center for Documentation, Research and Training in Natural Dyes and persuaded Bharathan to join the project. Bharathan helped perfect a technology where natural dyeing could be done without the use of mordents (mineral salts such as tin chloride for fixing colors). "What sets our venture apart is that it is eco-friendly," says Bharathan. His shades have attracted traders from Japan, Italy and the USA.

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