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Dalits Seek Conversion From Hinduism to Better Their Lives

Posted on 2002/11/14 8:48:02 ( 847 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 9, 2002: Rebelling against their birth, Dalits ("untouchables") across India are converting from Hinduism to better their lives. To belong a valued members of society and not to be persecuted,or even killed, for being born "untouchable," this is possible in this lifetime they believe. But possible, a growing number amongst Dalits are saying, only by discarding Hinduism. This rejection of their inherited faith occurs sometimes in quiet private ceremonies, and at other times as loud political protests. Like the mass Dalit conversions that happened in Gurgaon, Haryana, 14 days after the Jhajjar lynchings on October 15. Or like the spurt of conversions Dalits foresee occurring in protest against the new bill in Tamil Nadu that proposes to prohibit "conversion from one (religion) to another by use of force or allurement or fraudulent means." Not all conversions, though, are knee-jerk reactions to the latest caste atrocity nor the result of cynical manipulation by politicians. The Dalits of Meenakshipuram, Tamil Nadu, discussed conversion for seven years before quitting Hinduism to free themselves from the practices of untouchability and police harassment. In 1981, 150 Dalit families in this sleepy hamlet in Tirunelveli district embraced Islam. Caste, however, finds its way into most religions in India. Categories like Dalit Christians, Reddy Christians, Nadar Christians continue to matter. Syrian Christians are known to call themselves "originally Brahmin." Moreover, there is discrimination even within the church. For example, in Tamil Nadu's Tiruchirapalli and Palayamkottai districts, there are separate pews and burial grounds for Dalit Christians. The nine-judge Supreme Court ruling in the 1993 Mandal case recognized caste in Christianity. "There are inequalities in other religions but not even near as stark as in Hinduism," says Delhi-based advocate Rashid Saleem Adil, who was Ram Singh Vidyarthi two decades ago. Many have also observed that neo-converts seem to be grasping for meaning in their new belief systems. However, not all neo-converts are too bothered by the burden of a new identity. In Rahmat Nagar, most neo-Muslims do not wear a fez cap, not one woman is wearing the burqa, and for the men it does not mean multiple marriages.

The Resilient Brahmins

Posted on 2002/11/14 8:47:02 ( 1456 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 10, 2002: Brahmins continue to dominate India's sociopolitical spectrum, despite Mandalisation (legislation to reduce their influence). Four years after Prime Minister V. P. Singh's decision in 1990 to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations, it was hailed and reviled with equal fervor. While the upper castes saw it as the death knell of their aspirations, the backward castes and Dalits ("untouchables") believed it was the gateway to a new world, free of brahminical hegemony. But 12 years after the announcement, and eight since the judgment, brahmins are far from marginalized. Nine of the 12 years have seen brahmin Prime Ministers, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and for five years there was also a brahmin President, Shankar Dayal Sharma. The current Lok Sabha Speaker, Manohar Joshi is a brahmin, as are the three chief ministers of Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, Gen. S. Padmanabhan and Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, are also brahmins. Brahmins proliferating in top corporate positions, or at the top of the culture and entertainment worlds are too many to name. Additionally, four permanent fixtures in the Indian cricket team, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, are brahmins. Although in the North, brahmins have held their own even more successfully than in South India, undoubtedly, lasting changes did occur, rendering brahmins irrelevant in politics. In the bureaucracy, too, brahmins have been reduced to a minority, but even that minority is not doing all that badly. Also South Indian brahmins continue to thrive in the private sector. In the new fields of technology the Indian contribution to software development, is primarily the achievement of South Indian brahmins.

Audiovisual Presentation on Swami Vivekananda Tours USA

Posted on 2002/11/14 8:46:02 ( 1680 reads )


KERALA, INDIA, November 9, 2002: Swami Jyotirmayananda of Karnataka, an independent monk of the Ramakrishna tradition, is the author and publisher of a book on Swami Vivekananda. Swami participated in the 1993 Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, in commemoration of the centenary of the First Parliament held in 1893, and the Global Vision 2000 Program in Washington, in commemoration of the centenary of Swami Vivekananda's visit to America. In August, 2000, he attended the U.N. Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. In the context of the centenary of the Mahasamadhi, July 4, 2002, of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Jyotirmayananda has prepared an Audiovisual presentation on Swami Vivekananda. 45 minutes in length, and titled "Swami Vivekananda -- The Great Hindu Monk of India and His Lasting Spiritual Legacy to Humanity," it is being shown to the student community in some of the educational institutions in the U.S., through the auspices of the Hindu Students Council. Swami Prabuddhananda, Head of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, has arranged for the presentation on Swami Vivekananda for January 1, 2003, at his center. Any institution, religious, cultural, social or educational, who would like to know more about the presentation can contact Swami at "source" above.

Saudi Arabia Prohibits Indian Jewelers

Posted on 2002/11/14 8:45:02 ( 883 reads )


RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA, November 9, 2002: After the ban on foreign taxi drivers, Saudi Arabia has now announced that all jobs in gold and jewellery shops, presently dominated by Indians, will be taken over by local people by next year. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif, who is also chairman of the Manpower Council, has ordered the total "Saudization" of jobs in gold and jewellery shops from March 4, 2003, Al-Madinah newspaper reports. The shop owners have also been asked to ensure that 50 per cent of their staff are Saudi citizens by the end of this year. There are 3,500 expatriates working in the 1,100 gold and jewellery shop in Saudi Arabia and 10,000 skilled workers in the 360 workshops in Jeddah. A group of Saudi businessmen have decided to open an institute to train Saudi youth in skilled jobs related to the manufacture and sale of gold and jewellery. Between six and seven million expatriates live and work in the Kingdom, which has a population of 22 million. Unofficial estimates put the unemployment rate among Saudi males at about 15 per cent. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ali Al-Namlah disclosed recently that there are 3.2 million Saudi job seekers.

Short Message Services Accused of Causing Marital Discord

Posted on 2002/11/14 8:44:02 ( 882 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 10, 2002: A human rights group has launched a campaign here against Short Message Services, arguing SMS has become the root of divorces in India where mobile telephones are the latest craze. Activists with the National Human Rights Council staged a demonstration and burned a cellular telephone in a protest against the succinct messages which are now crowding the Indian ether. "SMS is against Indian etiquette and culture and is the cause of numerous divorces in the recent past," council President Subhash Gupta said after the protest in the Indian capital. This article does not explain why SMS is causing a problem, except to state that even innocent text messages like "U4ME" were known to have sparked marital discord ending in divorce. "SMS has diverted the youth of the country from Indian culture and they are now following the Western trend of dating," added council General Secretary Ramesh Sabbarwal.

Patna's Mahavira Temple Accepts Dalit Priest

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:49:02 ( 988 reads )


PATNA, INDIA, November 10, 2002: Patna's Mahavira temple, one of the biggest temples in the country, is known for its break with tradition. Not only the traditional Brahmin priests but also Suryavanshi Das, a Dalit ("untouchable"), also performs religious rituals at the temple and has been a priest there for the past nine years. "We believe in equality among human beings. This temple is associated with the Ramanand community which believed and practiced nondiscrimination 700 years back," says Kishore Kunal, administrator of the Mahavir Mandir Trust. Suryavanshi Das says, "I live here without any fear. There are no restrictions. I come here whenever I feel like. No one questions my work either." Misconceptions and opposition to a Dalit priest from brahmins and religious leaders has now dissipated. "There was discrimination in the early days. It continued for a year or two but now there's nothing like that at all," says Suryavanshi Das. Since Suryavanshi has been accepted as priest, the temple authorities have now decided to increase the number of Dalit priests.

Deepavali in the Caribbean

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:48:02 ( 986 reads )

Source: Paras Ramoutar

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, CARIBBEAN, October 25, 2002: The religious festival of Deepavali holds special significance for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. This year to commemorate the 16th annual Deepavali Nagar, Dr. Uma Mesthrie, a great granddaughter of the late Mahatma Gandhi, was asked to speak. Knowledgeable about the experience of East Indian immigrants who were brought to the Caribbean as laborers, Dr. Mesthrie chose to speak about Mahatma Gandhi as an Apostle of Peace. Dr. Mesthrie wished all Hindus who are doing their dharma a prosperous Deepavali and she prayed that those who are not fulfilling their duty to love and serve, will be inspired to do so in the future. As part of the nine-day festival, Prime Minister Patrick Manning also spoke on October 28th. Manning said, "In Trinidad and Tobago we must of necessity hold the view that our national celebrations, in particular the religious ones, should serve as a vehicle for bringing our society together. They must somehow bond our collective spirit. Like the Mahatma, the Apostle of Peace, we must continue to believe that keeping the peace and exercising goodwill are not a sign of weakness but are manifestations of the highest level of strength."

Hindus Gather for Deepavali in Salt Lake City

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:47:02 ( 879 reads )

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, October 27, 2002: Over 125 Hindus gathered at the Salt Lake Public Library to celebrate Deepavali. A performance of sitar and tabla by Shashi Kalaskar and Subhash Kirtane set the tone for the celebrations. Prathibha Marathe, member of the library's Diversity Committee, from Bangalore, India, remarked, "We had a great response from the community. Utah's Hindu community includes about 400 families and though many currently worship in someone's basement, the community is building a new temple and cultural center in South Jordan."

More Delhi Women Taking Up Employment

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:46:02 ( 823 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 6, 2002: An analysis of the 2001 Census data pertaining to New Delhi shows that more women have taken jobs in the past ten years, though the number is still much less than working men. But, the number of women employed in the agriculture sector and household industries is higher than that of men. Around 9.15 percent women are employed as main or marginal workers. Those who work continuously for six or more months have been categorized as main workers the rest are marginal workers. According to officials of the Department of Economics and Statistics of Delhi Government, 15.54 percent women are employed in New Delhi, followed by 10.69 percent in south Delhi and 10.51 percent in west Delhi. In northeast Delhi, only 5.25 percent of women are employed followed by 7.91 percent in north Delhi and 8.99 percent in east Delhi. The census analysis has found more women working in Delhi's rural areas (11 percent) than those in urban parts (9.08 percent). By comparison, in the U.S. women made up 46.6 percent of the total work force in 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in Japan women make up about 40 percent of the country's total work force.

UK Hindus Have Three-Day Vedic Ceremony to Instill Life in New Murthis

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:45:02 ( 793 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, September 13, 2002: Gods and Goddesses were enlivened in elaborate Vedic ceremonies held the middle of September at the southeast London Maha Lakshmi Vidya Bhavan. Devotees from the United Kingdom, Canada, America, Finland, India, Guyana and Trinidad pilgrimaged to the 3-day event called the Murthi Sthaapna celebration. Spearheaded by Param Pujya Swami Gopal Sharan Ji Maharaj of Shri Golok Dham Ashram, New Delhi, the grand puja culminated on Sunday, September 15 when the murthis were decorated with jewels and beautiful garlands. "Tears of happiness, joy and blissfulness filled the hearts of all, the external world became nonexistent as the focus on the Murthis was so intense," Pandit Ramesh Charan, founder member and priest of the Mandir hosting the event, said. "This is truly a historic occasion in the reawakening of Divinity in the hearts of all present here."

Animal Rights Group Raises Abuse Questions of Thailand's Elephants

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:44:02 ( 888 reads )


BANGKOK,THAILAND, November 10, 2002: An animal rights group has urged tourists to stop visiting Thailand, accusing the kingdom of abusing elephants for tourism. In a video released by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, a baby elephant was shown separated from its mother during what's called a "Phajaan ceremony" at an elephant camp in the Thailand. This is a process where the calf is severely abused so that the so-called trainers can tame the animal enough for tourists to pet and feed it. The footage has provoked an uproar in Thailand, where elephants are treated as a royal symbol and are revered by many. The Thai government is taking the claims very seriously. In response, officials have announced plans to prosecute elephant trainers who are found guilty of torturing the animals. Fearing a tourist ban to elephant camps, many organizers have taken pains to show how an elephant separation is actually conducted, with rituals and care for the animals. But many question the need to separate the calf from its mother in the first place. Especially when many elephants that are separated end up on the streets of Bangkok, vying for tourist dollars, and living on empty land next to expressways. Activists have called for new laws to protect elephants.

Short of Land, India's Christians Turn to Cremation

Posted on 2002/11/13 8:43:02 ( 835 reads )


PATNA, INDIA, November 11, 2002: Christians in densely populated areas are increasingly turning to the Hindu tradition of cremation as cemeteries get more crowded. As younger Christians spruced up the graves of their ancestors recently for All Souls Day, many of them said they were willing to opt for cremation rather than burial when their time comes. "Cremation is a viable and modern alternative," said Deepak Simon, a minister in the Church of North India in Bihar. With the billion-plus population converging on cities at an alarming rate, Christian cremations are also likely to become more commonplace. For some believers, cremation goes against Christianity's basic tenets. "Christians' faith that bodies in the graves will rise to life on the Day of Resurrection prevents the notion of cremation of bodies," said M. Joseph. Others, however, welcome the eco-friendly way of disposing the dead that would put Christians closer in practice to most Indians. "Indian Christians in all their social functions, like marriages and childbirth, observe local and regional cultural traditions. The point is, when Indian traditions can be followed in life why not in death?" asked Binu Jose, a Roman Catholic. Cremation remains forbidden, however, for Muslims. But Islamic leaders are also also urging changes. Muslims are now generally banned from their custom of concrete tombs, which took up major space. And Muslims can now bury their dead in the same plot three months after the last funeral there. In the US, cremation is the second most common form of disposition, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The association reports that the percentage of cremation in the United States and Canada has increased steadily in recent decades. In the 1960s, about 3 to 4 percent of all deaths were disposed by cremation. Today, the amount is 23 to 24 percent. Similarly, the Chicago-based Cremation Association of North America projects that by the year 2010, the level of cremation in the United States will be 32.5 percent. In England and Japan, cremation is the most common form of disposition.

Koreans Search for Roots in Ayodhya

Posted on 2002/11/10 8:49:02 ( 1883 reads )

Source: Vinay Krishna Rastogi, Lucknow

AYODHYA : A high-power delegation from South Korea visited Ayodhya to revive two millennia-old ties with the temple town. The South Koreans discovered that a Princess of Ayodhya was married to Korean King Suro in the first century CE. Suro was the King of Kimhay kingdom or the present Korea. The Princess was married to the Korean King at the age of 16. The Koreans believe that the Princess was the mother of the descendants who unified various Korean kingdoms in the 7th century CE. Since the first century CE her descendants prospered and became the largest clan in Korea, known as the Karak, whose members had been highly distinguished people. The present President of South Korea Kim Dae-Jung believes that he is also a descendant of the Great Princess of Ayodhya. She is regarded as the most blessed queen of Korea in the last 2,000 years, and Koreans believe that this could be due to the religious significance of the great temple city of Ayodhya where Lord Rama was born. The Counsel General of Korea said "I hope historians will be able to learn more about this great ancient Hindu city." He urged the ex-Raja of Ayodhya BPN Misra to strengthen the cultural ties between Ayodhya and South Korea.

New Hindu Magazine in Trinidad.

Posted on 2002/11/10 8:48:02 ( 949 reads )


TRINIDAD, November 10, 2002: The Caribbean Cultural Council (ICC) wishes to announce the publication and sale of its latest souvenir magazine, Divali 2002 in Trinidad and Tobago. The theme of the magazine is cultural ecology or, alternatively, religion and the environment. Hindus comprise the second largest religious groups in Trinidad and Tobago after Roman Catholics. Most Indians are Hindus, and Indians form just over half of the population (1.3 million) of the tiny Caribbean island. For thousands of Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago, Divali -- The Festival of Lights -- is a sacred day. On this public holiday, other nationals join in the celebration, lighting clay lamps at public celebrations, and visiting Hindu friends who welcome them warmly into their homes. To order the Divali 2002, Souvenir Magazine, contact "source" above.

Swami Vivekananda's Influence in America and India

Posted on 2002/11/10 8:47:02 ( 945 reads )


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, November 7, 2002: This interesting article by Frank Parlato begins, "The city of Chicago has been the Western architect for Hinduism in America. It was here that Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu monk to come to the West, introduced Yoga and Hinduism at the World's Parliament of Religions to America, in 1893. It commenced with Vivekananda's historic speech which began, "Sisters and brothers of America..." and prompted an audience of 7,000 to rise to its feet in a surprising ovation. He achieved a stunning success which led to world-wide recognition. Chicago was the catalyst. The broad acceptance and respect for the ancient teachings of the East that followed in his wake profoundly and permanently affected the East and the West. ..." The article contains many quotes on Vivekananda's influence.

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