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Sleuths Discover the Rite Mantra


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:49:02 ( 844 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





NEW DELHI, INDIA, August 18,2002: The police crime branch has commissioned new weapons for its crime-busters: prayers and vaastu shastra (sacred architecture). As cases pile up and leads are hard to come by, police are going in for shuddhi pujas (purification rites) at various crime branch offices. During the last fortnight, puja was carried out in at least two crime branch offices, Adarsh Nagar and R. K. Puram, to drive out evil influences affecting their work. Apparently it worked. The havan (fire ceremony) at the Adarsh Nagar office was held on July 28 and the first arrest in the complicated Shivani Bhatnagar murder case was made on July 29. "The case was cracked after the Gods accepted our prayers," said an officer. The havan at Crime Branch's R. K. Puram office was held on August 11. Two days later his team hunted down Pitamber, wanted in 25 cases. Tewari, incidentally, changed the vastu of his office a few days ago. Invoking the Gods for professional reasons, though, is no new trend among Delhi's policemen. A senior officer is convinced he was able to solve 29 bomb blast cases while posted with the ISC unit only because of a havan he conducted in his office. And another said he had had 35 havans in the anti-extortion cell during his tenure there, saying, "We solved the diamond merchant kidnapping case, the Bengali Market kidnapping and the Tarun Puri case."






105 Kids Buried for a Minute in Temple Ritual


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:48:02 ( 962 reads )


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MADURAI, INDIA, August 21, 2002: At least 105 children were "buried alive" for one minute in Perayur village, near Madurai, on Wednesday to propitiate two female deities even as a government minister watched. The children -- who were first rendered unconscious -- were sunk into makeshift graves, covered completely, kept there for 60 seconds and then pulled out. Perayur has been following this tradition for years. The Kuzhi Maatru Thiruvizha -- or the festival of the pits -- is observed every five-seven years. All villagers participate in the ritual, burying their children in the hope that their wishes will be granted. Only pre-pubescent girls are chosen for the ritual, while no such condition is imposed in the case of boys. Family members first sprinkle holy ash on the child's head and then spray his or her face with turmeric water, after which the child falls unconscious. The child is then wrapped in a yellow cloth and taken to the burial ground in front of the temple. After the child is buried, his or her parents break a coconut and offer prayers. The entire episode lasts for a minute, after which the priest signals for the pit to be opened. The cloth around the head is unwrapped and the child is taken away by his or her relatives. Kaliraj, former president of the Perayur Town panchayat, says there has never been any mishap in the ceremony, which will be held again in seven years.






Armitage Says Devastation in Jaffna Reminds Him of Vietnam


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:47:02 ( 1011 reads )


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COLOMBO, SRI LANKA August 22, 2002: After touring the heartland of Sri Lanka's bloody civil war Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said what he saw reminded him of the devastation of the Vietnam War. Armitage's visit was the first to Sri Lanka by a senior U.S. official since the war began in 1983 and reflects Washington's support for ending one of Asia's longest running conflicts. "I am here to physically demonstrate the U.S. support for this process toward peace," Armitage said after a 30-minute meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the capital, Colombo. The jungle-cloaked Jaffna Peninsula is the center of the 19-year insurgency by Tamil Tiger rebels for a homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. The fighting has killed more than 64,500 people. He said he was in Sri Lanka at the request of President Bush, who had said he "was moved" by a meeting with Wickremesinghe in Washington last month. The rebels claim the island's 3.2 million Tamils are denied equal opportunity in jobs and education by the Sinhalese, who make up 74 percent of Sri Lanka's 18.6 million people. Armitage did not meet with officials of the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, which is outlawed as a terrorist group in the United States. But he met with moderate Tamil, Muslim and opposition representatives on his return to Colombo. "The international community expects the government and LTTE to move forward in the negotiations toward a permanent settlement ... and keep the country united," Armitage said.






Snakes Get a Breather on Naagpanchami


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:46:02 ( 936 reads )


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MAHARASHTRA, INDIA, August 13, 2002: The age-old tradition of naagpanchami celebrations at Batis Shirala may never quite be the same again. The Mumbai High Court has banned the use of snakes in any procession or competitions. This has angered the villagers, as they are left with no option but to follow the court orders under the supervision of the district administration. Villagers like 57-year-old Dadasao Ghatge, who capture cobras every year, say they have caught snakes this time too because these processions and worships are part of tradition. "For over 700 years, this village has been practicing this ritual. We worship these snakes. We treat them like children in the house and a day after the festival, they are all released," maintained K Y Mullah, Member, Gram Panchayat Batis Shirala, Maharashtra. Animal rights activists argue that their objection to the snake melas is because of the inhuman conditions in which the animals are forced to perform to entertain thousands who pour into the village for naagpanchami.






The Changing Face of Sikkim


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:45:02 ( 865 reads )


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SIKKIM, INDIA, August 22, 2002: In the last ten years Sikkim, a state in NE India sheltered in the Himalayas, has undergone changes. A senior bureaucrat in the Sikkim government says, "Our religio-demographic pattern has undergone such a change in the last decade that Sikkim is no more a land of Hindus and Buddhists." The article says, "In 1975, when Sikkim merged with India there were few Muslims and Christians. Now they account for 14.8% of the population. And even before Sikkim can absorb such a big change, it is being threatened by incursions by Nepalese Maoists from across the western border." Borders of Sikkim are manned by New Delhi's Special Security Bureau. Their task is to keep Maoist rebels out of Sikkim. But it is a thankless task. Most of the rebels look, eat and speak the same language as the Sikkimese and are often related to someone in Sikkim. When Chief Minister Chamling started projects in the field of power, roads, and tourism; trained masons, carpenters, and plumbers have flooded the country. Many of these artisans have stayed in Sikkim. With the influx of trained artisans, Sikkim's backward castes and Lepchas have suffered economically. Many Lepchas, the original inhabitants of the state, have converted under the lure of money to Christianity. A senior leader of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front says, "Sikkim is now being threatened within and outside and it is very important to tackle the triple threat of Maoism, Islamization and Christianization."






Swami Satchidananda Attains Mahasamadhi at 87


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:44:02 ( 914 reads )


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NEW YORK, NEW YORK, August 21, 2002: Swami Satchidananda, initiated into the sannyasa (Hindu monasticism) by Swami Sivananda on the banks of the Ganges River, July 10, 1949, died Monday in Madras (Chennai), South India. Swami arrived in America on the crest of a wave of fascination with India in the 1960's, as sitar music, meditation and incense became standard features of college dormitory life. With a gift for irony, a mischievous sense of humor and a disarming way of ending his sentences with a slight "hum," he gave lectures that were part of the fun. Peter Max, the artist of psychedelia, invited him to the United States in 1966, and his disciples included celebrities like the singer-composer Carole King, the jazz musician Paul Winter and the actors Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern. The article goes on to detail the swami's work in America.






Firm Turns Cremated Bodies Into Diamonds


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:43:02 ( 996 reads )


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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, August 23, 2002: A Chicago-based company has created a process for turning cremated bodies into diamonds. LifeGem is taking orders to make jewellery from the carbon remains of people or pets for US4,500. Dean Vanden Biesen, who helped set up the company, says the idea came from his brother who is also working on the enterprise. Ananova.com quoted Vanden Biesen as saying: "The traditional methods of burial or having ashes in an urn just didn't sit right with him. But he realized that man is made of carbon and diamonds are made of carbon so he just put the two ideas together." Technicians collect the carbon created when a body is cremated and have it turned into graphite. The graphite is then sent to a lab in Germany that creates the stones by simulating the intense pressure and temperature needed to make diamonds. Several funeral homes have already signed up for the service. Doug Ahlgrim, director of Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral Services in Illinois, said: "An urn is beautiful in its own right, but you certainly can't take it wherever you go."






Youth Testimony Throws New Light on Godhra Attack


Posted on 2002/8/25 9:42:02 ( 863 reads )


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GODHRA, INDIA, August 22, 2002: Giving a sensational new turn to the investigation of the Godhra massacre, a Hindu youth, who has admitted to having been a member, albeit unwilling, of the group (otherwise all Muslim) that ferried inflammable material to the spot where the Sabarmati Express was stopped on the fateful morning of February 27, has given a blow-by-blow account of the events that set Gujarat ablaze. Excerpts from this interesting article: "Ajay saw his employer Fofa and Mehboob Latika, another tea vendor, run towards the engine of the Sabarmati Express, screaming that another tea vendor, Siddique Bakkar by name, was being beaten by karsevaks. Ajay was then outside compartment #S3. He too was stopped by some karsevaks and asked to chant 'Jai Sri Ram.' Ajay complied, but when the karsevaks asked Latika to chant the slogan, he refused. The angry karsevaks began manhandling him, but Latika managed to break free and run, shouted that people were being beaten up." "He stood outside Kurkur's house along with a few other tea vendors. After a few minutes Rafique Bhatuk came out with a can (called karbo in local parlance, which is used to store inflammable material) and gave it to Irfan Bhobha." "Ajay, who has narrated all the events as he remembers them in chronological order, also named not just the arsonists but also all the members of the first group that began pelting stones on the train, the Godhra source said. His version matches that of some of the passengers on that train." "On page six of his statement, Ajay has described in detail how the boys in his group torched compartment #S6. According to him, they first tried to burn compartment #S2, but alert passengers inside foiled them. They then went to compartment #S6 and slit open the vestibule between #S6 and #S7. Six boys, including Rafique Bhatur, Saukat Lalu, Irfan Bhobha, and Sheru, then boarded the compartment and splashed their inflammable material inside." This last piece of testimony would explain the so-far unexplained conclusion of an investigation that the fire started inside the carriage, resulting in the death of dozens of Hindu women and children.






Tirupati Plans Dress Code for Visitors


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:49:02 ( 957 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





HYDERABAD, INDIA, August 17, 2002: Tourists planning to visit the pilgrim town of Tirupati should take note; shorts and bermudas are not permitted at the shrine of Lord Venkateswara. Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD), administrators of the Hindu temple, is planning a dress code for visitors. Anything that shows flesh -- either male or female -- or causes embarrassment to others is out. An audio tape meant to be played in all vehicles from the base town of Tirupati to the hilltop shrine already lists in detail what pilgrims should wear and what they should avoid for the darshan. TTD authorities want people to enter the temple in traditional wear -- dhoti and shawls for men, and sarees for women. Trousers and salwar kameezes are frowned upon, but not banned. "The clothes should fit into the pious atmosphere inside the temple and should not hurt the sentiments of others," TTD executive officer P. Krishnaiah said. "The traditional dress will give them a feeling that they are on a pilgrimage and not on a picnic or a pleasure trip." The "casual attitude" towards clothes is a recent phenomenon. The TTD, Krishnaiah said, would not like to "impose" the restrictions on pilgrims, but would only "educate" them. "This is the beginning, we have to see how the people respond." TTD already has a formal dress code for pilgrims participating in special rituals like abhishekam. Up to 50,000 pilgrims visit the temple every day, which is one of the richest in India






Festival Kite Sales Hit New Low


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:48:02 ( 1030 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, August 12, 2002: Jaiprakash Gupta is a seller of kites, though his business nowadays is not flying high. Gupta is quick to point out the reason for the downturn in the kite business. "It is not about the money, people have money to spend. It is just that their interests have changed. Children would rather fly kites on the Internet than on their terraces." This year is not seeing the usual pre-Independence Day rush for kites. Buyers, coming from as far as Bombay and Ahmedabad, usually flood the wholesale kite markets of Lal Kuan, Chandni Chowk, the whole month before August 15. Today only the sellers are there. "Till five years back, every shop had a sale of about 20,000 kites per day but now if we even sell 2,000 kites it is enough," says M. J. Qureshi, who has had a wholesale kite shop in Chandni Chowk for the last 25 years. Kite-flying originated in China. In India, it dates back to the time of the Mahabharata, with current kite flying festivals including Basant Panchami, Raksha Bandhan, and Makar Sakranti.






Punjabi Writing on California's Angel Island Walls


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:47:02 ( 879 reads )


Source: San Francisco Chronicle





SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, August 4, 2002: Indian immigrants are often overlooked in the large wave of East Asian immigrants that came through Angel Island in the early 20th century. For the first time, writings from the Punjabi region of India have been found on the walls of the former detention center. Indian-American historians hope that the discovery will encourage members of the Punjabi community in California to come forward and share their stories, reports India-West. From 1910 to 1940, immigrants detained on Angel Island often wrote their names or poems on the barracks' walls while they waited to see if they would be allowed entry to the United States or sent home. As well as Punjabi, there are other languages that could be Sanskrit or Urdu, according to the experts.






Hindu Temples of New Jersey in Pluralism Project


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:46:02 ( 815 reads )


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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, August 19, 2002: In the past thirty years, the religious landscape of the U.S. has changed radically. Islamic centers and mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples and meditation centers are found in virtually every major American city. How Americans of all faiths begin to engage with one another in shaping a positive pluralism is one of the most important questions American society faces in the years ahead, according to The Pluralism Project. Developed by Diana L. Eck at Harvard University to study and document the growing religious diversity of the United States, The Pluralism Project has new research by Michael Linderman on the Hindu Temples of New Jersey available on their website. This extensive list includes twenty temples and The Garden State Crematory with it's chapel for Hindu ceremonies. Profiles of individual centers include detailed histories of each institution, with a focus on history of organization and funding bodies; target population and language groups served; current management and personnel; relationships with local communities and with other temples; and the centers' religious art, architecture, and ritual installations. An additional new link has dozens of photos available in a slide show format.






Hindu Saints Meet in Gujarat


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:45:02 ( 970 reads )


Source: Times News Network





MAHUDI, GUJARAT, August 20, 2002: It was pure vitriol that flowed out of this pilgrim village on Tuesday as religious leaders from across Gujarat representing various sects gave vent to their disenchantment with the Bharatiya Janata Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. According to this report, they said the BJP-VHP combine used them for 20 years to solicit votes, but gave nothing in return -- not even respect. "It was for Ram Mandir that we helped BJP. We sent them to the throne of Delhi. But after they came to power, the controversy grew from two to 72 acres. Today, we are not able to put our foot in that holy land," said Chhote Morari Bapu. "People have voted for the BJP seeing faces of the saints and not that of the party. But the party in power is fooling the saints. They now say Ram Mandir is not on their agenda," said Dhansukhnath Mahant of Ramdevpir temple, Ahmedabad. The flash-point apparently came sometime back when the 'sant-mahants' went to meet Narendra Modi. "He talked with great arrogance. He insulted us and asked us what we wanted to take away from him," recollected Chhote Morari Bapu, a famed preacher. Adding insult to the injury, the BJP government took away the administration of Koteshwar in Kutch, Harshad near Porbandar and temples in Gir forest from the 'mahants,' they alleged. Insult by Modi, his refusal to continue the tribal-category benefits to the families of Goswamis (priests) and murders of temple priests over property completed the disenchantment. "We went to people in Mehsana district and asked them to vote for BJP. We used to say it's not just another political party. But today we realize that the VHP has neglected us," said Sant Narayandas of Mehsana. Mahant Baldevgiri of Valinath, who chaired the gathering and heads the Bharwads and Rabari communities, extended full support to the resolutions and views aired at the meet. The organizers said a convention of Hindu religious leaders from all over the country is being convened in Gujarat before Deepavali.






Belarus Police Arrest Hindu Demonstrators


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:44:02 ( 938 reads )


Source: Associated Press





MOSCOW, RUSSIA, August 17, 2002: Police in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Saturday arrested about a dozen members of a Hindu group who were protesting alleged religious persecution, Russian news agencies reported. The reports said between 10 and 13 members of the Shiva Society were arrested. Belarus authorities could not be reached for comment. In mid-July, 17 Hindus were arrested in a protest against a bill passed by the lower house of parliament prohibiting religious groups with less than 20 years' presence in Belarus from publishing literature or establishing missions and banning organized prayer by denominations with less than 20 Belarusian citizens as members. The Russian Orthodox Church, which supports the legislation, complains in Belarus and in Russia that other religions are poaching converts among people who historically would have been Orthodox adherents.






Chinese Children Excel in Indian Classical Dance


Posted on 2002/8/24 9:43:02 ( 951 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





BEIJING, CHINA, August 19, 2002: A group of Chinese girls are excelling in the niceties of Indian classical dance in Beijing. "I can't believe this. I am highly impressed. The Chinese children are performing much better than some of their Indian peers," said renowned Indian dancer, Mallika Sarabhai after she saw a live performance of Bharatnatyam and Kathak by a group of young Chinese girls at the Oriental Song and Dance Assemble (OSDA) in Beijing earlier this year. The performance of these girls, trained by Su Bao Hua, a leading Chinese choreographer who specializes in Indian classical dance forms, has won laurels from many personalities like former first lady, Usha Narayanan, during her visit here two years back. Su, who teaches Chinese and Indian dances at the OSDA, said, "she was thrilled by the genuine interest among Chinese parents to teach their children Indian classical dance forms." Su thanks the Indian government for offering scholarships to OSDA students and hopes that more Chinese students would go to India to master the rich dance forms of the country. Su learned Bharatnatyam under Leela Samson and later Jayalakshmi. She was invited to study for three months in 1992 at the most famous dance school in India -- Kalakshetra, founded by the late Rukmini Devi Arundale in Chennai.




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