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Tamil Nadu's Ancient Gene Pool Discovered


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


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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 )


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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 ( 914 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 ( 987 reads )


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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 ( 875 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 ( 901 reads )


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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 ( 926 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 ( 863 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 ( 956 reads )


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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.






H.H. the Dalai Lama Speaks on Compassion at Event Honoring India


Posted on 2002/12/31 8:48:02 ( 839 reads )


Source: Rajiv Malik, HPI Correspondent Delhi





NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 18, 2002: Hundreds of Tibetans and a large number of New Delhi's social elite gathered to attend the closing ceremony of the Tibetan Festival of Compassion. The festival included the presentation of the Light of Truth Award to The People of India. The award has been instituted by the International Campaign for Tibet, whose chairman, Richard Gere, was also present at the function. The award was presented to India for its continuing support of the Tibetans and was received on behalf of the People of India by Sri Rabi Ray, former speaker of Lok Sabha [lower house]. His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivered his keynote speech on the subject of "Compassion: An antidote to Terrorism." In his address His Holiness said, "Compassion is a human emotion that is there in every human being since his birth. Compassion is a part of a human being. And it is compassion which gives a person a deeper satisfaction and is the basis of permanent happiness. Compassion is nothing special for Tibetans, it is a way of their life." His Holiness continued, "Compassion is the essence of all religions despite there being philosophical differences in them. Compassion can transform the human mind and human emotions. Human beings all over the world today are interdependent and interconnected. We have to realize that our future depends on others. Human future depends on inter-relationships. You have to see everything from this point of view. Then you will perceive the complete picture of the humanity and of the world." In his speech Richard Gere said that there was a very special relationship between India and Tibet. Mr. Gere said, "It is because of India's support that the Tibetans have been able to rebuild their secular and monastic traditions even while living in exile. This has made Tibetan Buddhism available to people from around the world, like myself."






Angkor Temples, Jewel of Cambodian Heritage, Under Threat From Tourists


Posted on 2002/12/31 8:47:02 ( 1071 reads )


Source: Associated Press





SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA, December 29, 2002: Until recently, Cambodia was happy to let the temples of Angkor exist as a beacon of Khmer pride, rising from a jungle canopy like jewels dotting a green silk scarf. Now the ancient Buddhist and Hindu monuments have become the pillars of Cambodia's nascent tourism industry, and officials are counting on them to lift the country out of a downward economic spiral. But Cambodia's culture leaders warn that the very survival of the 9th-14th century temples may be in jeopardy as planeloads of invasive tourists trample through the hallowed corridors, climb the stone steps to the shrines and brush grubby fingers on the magnificent bas reliefs of Gods and Goddesses. The concerns are typical of the debate going on at ancient monuments around the world -- from the Pyramids of Egypt to the Taj Mahal in India -- on how to balance the hunger for tourism dollars with the need to protect the stunning legacies for future generations. The Cambodian government has vowed it will do everything to protect the 40 or so sacred structures, located on the outskirts of the northern town of Siem Reap. Some 250,000 foreign tourists visited the temples in 2001, up from 60,000 in 1999, according to government figures. The government's goal is to host 1 million annually by 2010. Tens of thousands of Cambodians also visit each year. Until five years ago, a visitor to Angkor could be virtually alone while watching the sunset from Phnom Bakeng, a 70-meter (230- feet) hill between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Today, the peak is elbow to elbow with people at dusk and its base is a quagmire of honking tour buses, cars and motorbikes jostling for parking space that doesn't exist. "It's a view pollution," Teneishvili, the UNESCO official, said. There are varying figures for income generated by tourism. Estimates range from US$200 million to $450 million in 2001, making tourism a major engine driving the economy that largely depends on foreign money. "Angkor can help the whole country by bringing people with money to Cambodia," said Chap Nhalyvudh, the governor of Siem Reap province, noting how tourism kick-started neighboring Thailand's economy 40 years ago.






World Championship of Liars


Posted on 2002/12/31 8:46:02 ( 970 reads )


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BURLINGTON, UNITED STATES, December 31, 2002: You probably don't know this, and it has nothing to do with Hinduism, but Sandi Weld of Sorrento, Florida, just won the 72nd World Champion Liar Contest over hundreds of competitors. Weld won by writing: "When I moved to Iron Mountain, Michigan, (a real mining town) I brought my pet sheep. He grazed on the mineral rich grass. When it came time to shear it in the spring, I ended up with nine pounds of steel wool." R.M. Eimermann, of Oconomowoc, received an honorable mention for saying his brother Ollie is so smart he can do crossword puzzles without looking at the clues. Gene Lasch, of Shawno, was mentioned for writing that when he speaks, his wife listens. And Pleasant Praire's Wayne Everts was honored for his lie about his father's horse, who was so smart, he could put on his own shoes.






Chennai High Court Rules on Personal Laws


Posted on 2002/12/30 8:49:02 ( 1123 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, December 30, 2002: In a significant ruling, the Chennai high court on Friday said that Personal Laws cannot be declared void, since they do not come under the ambit of the Constitution. The ruling came when a division bench, comprising Justice R. Jayasimha Babu and Justice G. Padmanabhan, dismissed a petition by a Muslim divorcee, Parveen Akhtar, who sought to declare the Talaq-ul-biddat, a form of divorce followed by the Muslim community, "void and unconstitutional." The petitioner contended that the Koran did not provide for Talaq-ul-biddat, under which one can seek divorce by pronouncing talaq ("divorce") in the presence of two witnesses. Solicitor General B. G. Gopalan, appearing on the behalf of The Union ministry of law and justice, one of the respondents, argued that Section two of the Muslim Personal Law [Shariat] Application Act of 1937 does not come under the purview of the Constitution. Some Muslim organizations also told the court not to interfere in personal laws. HPI adds: Personal laws govern marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and related family issues. In India, each religious community has its own personal laws. In other countries, such as the USA, there is a one common civil code applicable to everyone on these matters. The existence of these separate personal laws, which is contrary to the concept of a secular state, is a perennial issue in India, especially with regard to women's rights.






Concert Revives Awareness of India's Classical Instruments


Posted on 2002/12/30 8:48:02 ( 984 reads )


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NEW DELHI,INDIA, December 29, 2002: A three-day concert was held in Bhopal to revive people's interest in classical music instruments. The instruments, which played a big part in palace concerts, are slowly on the way out with the advent of fast-paced music. Lack of trained musicians also have led to a decline in the use of such instruments like the veena, santoor and flute-like sundari. "We used to think that sarangi was dying down, santoor was dying down, and veena was dying down, but when shows like these are organized, people and artists get enthused and the artists start practicing with full vigor," said Om Prakash Chaurasia, organizer of the concert. Artists, who had come mainly from the cities of Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi, said they wanted to impart their traditional knowledge to the present generation.






Saris Lose Popularity in Tamil Nadu


Posted on 2002/12/30 8:47:02 ( 885 reads )


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TAMIL NADU, INDIA, December 27, 2002: South India is the treasure trove of silk saris with gold embroidery -- the six yards of fabric has been draped in styles seen today for centuries. However, today many younger women feel it's too cumbersome for daily wear. Younger girls for centuries have worn the half sari (pavadai thavani) consisting of a skirt and half a sari draped around the body. It is very elegant and something that mothers and grandmothers wanted their daughters to wear, especially at weddings. But the thavani is no longer popular, not even the pattu pavadai or silk long skirt. A sure indicator is that new malls coming up all across Tamil Nadu no longer display saris or thavanis on their mannequins. An entire generation of teenagers have taken to Western and north Indian attire. On college campuses, jeans and salwar kameez can be seen everywhere.




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