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India's National Green Corps Appeal for Ganesha's Without Color


Posted on 2002/9/5 9:47:02 ( 861 reads )


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HYDERABAD, INDIA, September 2, 2002: National Green Corps, comprising school children, along with the Andra Pradesh Pollution Control Board have urged people to make Ganesha icons only with clay and not from other materials such as plaster of Paris. They also asked people to not to install Ganesha icons painted with colors nor to immerse the Ganesha icons after the festivities in infiltration tanks, rivers, lakes and seas. In a statement, the NGC and the APPCB said that the colors used to paint the icons contain heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic. "They pollute our water bodies, so please do not use colored icons of Lord Ganesha," they said. Lead paint, long banned in Western countries, is still used in India.






Churches, Local Governments Clash Over Zoning


Posted on 2002/9/5 9:46:02 ( 863 reads )


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SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, September 4, 2002: A growing number of churches and other religious institutions are utilizing a two-year-old civil rights law to fight local government officials over zoning disputes. The churches claim the zoning laws are being used to violate their religious freedoms. The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed an appeal last week with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in an effort to reverse a decision by a lower federal court that prevented a California Christian college from moving its campus from San Jose to Morgan Hill. "If we prevail, we'll be establishing new case law for churches and using RLUIPA -- the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act -- to set them apart from some of these onerous requirements that ... create a substantial burden on their ability to grow as they feel called," said Brad Dacus, president and chief counsel of the PJI. The PJI took up the case against the city of Morgan Hill after city officials told San Jose Christian College that it could not move its growing student body to the site of a defunct hospital it had purchased in 2000. Although a deed restriction barred the use of the facility as a hospital, the city council "voted to deny a zoning change from hospital use to educational use," according to a website run by the college. The website also states the city council reached its decision despite a city-funded study that had concluded Morgan Hill would not need a hospital for another ten to 15 years. RLUIPA imparts important rights to all religious institutions in America, including Hindu temples, and should be thoroughly understood by temple committees.






Plans to Make Malaysia's Batu Caves An International Tourist Destination


Posted on 2002/9/4 9:49:02 ( 858 reads )


Source: New Straits Times





BATU CAVES, MALAYSIA, August 26, 2002: The natural and cultural attractions of Batu Caves will be enhanced to make the place an international tourist destination, Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said today. With its caves, tunnels, streams and a Hindu temple which attracted millions of devotees and tourists each year, Batu Caves was a strategic place with plenty of tourism potential, he said. "Nearly 2,000 visitors, both local and foreign, come here each day," he said. "A concerted effort must be made to develop Batu Caves further." For a start, he said, lights would be strung up around the area and sign-boards explaining the history of the caves put up. He said the temple committee and Selayang Municipal Council had agreed. "Earlier today, I discussed this with them and they agreed that more should be done to make Batu Caves an international tourist attraction." Batu Caves is also known for attracting nature lovers and sportsmen. Its steep limestone faces are a favorite among rock-climbers. Cave exploration and guided tours are conducted by the Malaysian Nature Society for the Dark Cave, which is below the main temple cave. The entire Batu Cave system is said to have 30 caves and is about 150 million years old.






Sandblasting Banned in Temples


Posted on 2002/9/4 9:48:02 ( 960 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, Aug. 24, 2002: Concerned at the incalculable damage done to priceless and ancient sculptures and the structural stability of various temples, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department has placed a blanket ban on sandblasting, adopted to clean icons and walls. This directive is a sequel to objections raised by conservationists, historians and culture-lovers in the context of the sandblasting work at the Meenakshi temple, Madurai. Intended to remove oily substance or whitewash, sandblasting is a process of spraying sand at high air pressure on sculptures, walls and pillars. Though it gives a "clean look" immediately, delicate features of the sculptures such as face, nose or lip gradually become flattened. Also, inscriptions get obliterated. As numerous temples in the State are an important link with the past, the mindless use of sandblasting may result in the loss of vital clues the sculptures or inscriptions may offer to unraveling the history of the temples or the surrounding areas or even the prevalence of land tenures in such places in the past. The superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, K.T. Narasimhan, says diluted chemicals can be used for cleaning sculptures. Besides using chemicals, traditional poulticing methods such as sandalwood paste and vibhuti (holy ash) for sculptures in interior parts of the temple and application of fermented rice-flower paste for the rest can be adopted, say the experts.






Hindus in England Want to Distribute Ashes into the River Aire


Posted on 2002/9/4 9:47:02 ( 885 reads )


Source: The Guardian





LONDON, ENGLAND, August 21, 2002: Bradford's Hindu Cultural Society has submitted a proposal to Bradford Council to allow a small stretch of the River Aire at Apperley Bridge to be used for the scattering of ashes after a traditional Hindu funeral. A spokesman for the cultural society says, "Most of our community still travel to India for the purpose. But using the river Aire would allow those who can't afford it to also scatter ashes. Whether the river is the Aire, the Congo, the Nile or the Ganges, they all flow into the sea. Hindu scriptures portray the sea as carrying the ashes -- which have the consistency of fine dust -- to their final, heavenly destination." Jane Glaister, director of arts, heritage and leisure for Bradford says, "We have been approached by representatives of the local Hindu and Sikh communities about the possibility of allowing part of the Aire, and we are talking to both groups and the environmental agency."






Niagara Falls Hindus to Now Have a Temple


Posted on 2002/9/4 9:46:02 ( 964 reads )


Source: The Standard (St. Catherines)





NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO, CANADA, August 23, 2002: Hindu families in Niagara Falls, approximately 200 in number, now have a place to worship each week. Three years ago the Hindu Samaj purchased the Moose Lodge and converted it into a temple. Previous to that, families had taken turns worshipping at each other's homes since 1982. The Samaj has hired a priest to perform pujas at the temple. Anamitra Shome, a member of the temple, says, "While I see Hindus are just going to become more and more integrated with the rest of the community in the Niagara region, I also feel that they will be able to retain their ancient values." Kanchan Rege, one of the directors of the temple says, "Hinduism is a way of life. The final goal of a Hindu is to mold with the absolute. You will become one with God." Shome further explains, "Every Hindu basically strives to be free or emancipated from the cycle of birth and death and to be one with the universal soul."






Vivekananda Family Camp in New England


Posted on 2002/9/4 9:45:02 ( 835 reads )


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MASSACHUSETTS, USA, September 2, 2002: Two hundred participants attended the Vivekananda Family Camp in August. The camp was held in beautiful, lakeside facilities in the western Massachusetts town of Tolland. At this week-long residential camp, youth learned about and practiced Hindu values while participating in a variety of fun activities. Campers enjoyed yoga, crafts, games, classes on Hindu philosophy, Eastern and Western games (kabaddi and volleyball), cultural programs put on by the campers and campfire discussions. The family camp has become a very popular event in the community in the Northeast where it has been organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America since 1979. Campers came from New England states, New York, New Jersey as well as Canada. Further information about the camp can be obtained from "source" above.






Temple Arson in Fiji


Posted on 2002/9/3 9:49:02 ( 952 reads )


Source: Daily Post





SUVA, FIJI, September 2, 2002: Amid racial slurs and religious backstabbing in the Senate, a temple was attacked here. A Hindu temple at Naila, along Bau Road in Nausori, was the target of vandals who ransacked and set it alight. Fortunately the smoke was spotted by a neighbor and the fire extinguished with minor damage. Other temples in Fiji similarly torched at night have burned completely. Religious groups and political parties have condemned the act. Interfaith Search Fiji says that ever since the formation of Interfaith Search it has continuously witnessed the wrecking, burning and looting of religious buildings, particularly those of the non-Christian faith traditions. Shree Sanatan Dharam Prathinidhi Sabha national president Harish Sharma said such acts should not be condoned and should be put to a stop. Arya Prathinidhi Sabha of Fiji national president Kamlesh Arya said the burning of the items in the temple is a clear indication that some extreme elements against reconciliation still exist in the country. Mr. Arya believes recent racist remarks in Fiji's parliament seemed to encourage such extreme elements to carry out such acts of sacrilege. Fiji Senator Mitieli Bulanauca said in parliament a few days earlier that public holidays marking Deepavali and Prophet Mohammed's Birthday should be scrapped. Senator Bulanauca said that by having those public holidays, "Fijian people are forced to bow to other Gods in their own land." And that, he said, was unconstitutional. He said Deepavali and Prophet Mohammed's Birthday "can be special days for believers." He then tried to compare Christianity with other religions, making references to false gods.






Indo-Canadian Community in Vancouver Builds a Crematorium


Posted on 2002/9/3 9:48:02 ( 888 reads )


Source: Vancouver Sun





VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA, August 19, 2002: Hindus and Sikhs in the Province of British Columbia, Canada, can now rest assured that their loved ones will have their last rites performed according to tradition. Riverside Funeral Home and Crematorium located near the Fraser River at 7410 Hopcott Road is operated by a non-profit society. Mourners are able to bathe the body of the deceased person with water and yogurt in a specially-built room. The actual crematorium will accommodate up to a 1,000 people who can witness the cremation through a large glass window, similar to the customary funeral pyre in India. Also, the eldest son of the deceased person is able to start the fire of cremation himself by pressing a black button surrounded by a red circle which starts the blue gas flames. Amrik Nijjar, president of the non-profit society, hopes to obtain permission from the government in the future to drop small boxes of ashes in the Fraser River. Right now, because of environmental laws, it is illegal to do so. As a result many Indo-Canadians fly their loved ones' ashes back to India where the remains are distributed into a sacred river.






Reclaiming the Real Hinduism


Posted on 2002/9/3 9:47:02 ( 824 reads )


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LONDON, ENGLAND, August 17, 2002: This opinion piece by Vijay Rana reads in part, "The first time I was forced to declare myself as a devout Hindu was when I approached one of the finest schools in London for the admission of my daughter. The priest lectured me on the advantages of regular temple visits. He reluctantly signed the form the school required on my religious practice, putting a tick in the last category of occasional visitors. That day a vital part of my Hinduism was taken away from me -- my freedom to be a Hindu without going to the temple. Until now I had freedom to pray where I wanted. I had freedom to choose among the numerous Hindu gods. When rampaging mobs, chanting the name of my Lord Rama, kill innocent women and children. I say, "No! That's not the Hinduism I was taught. My Hinduism promised to ensure freedom from fear, not for Hindus alone, but for all living being." The Hinduism I knew was a compassionate creed, a set of values caring for all the living beings, including plants and animals. Gandhi's tolerance was written on his heart. Benevolence, generosity, compassion were the central traits of his mental make up. That was the Hinduism I grew up with. Yes, I would welcome a Rama temple in Ayodhya, a temple of compassion and social harmony. I do not need a temple made with the shilas (bricks) of hatred, a temple that is cemented by communal intolerance. In a democratic, forward-looking, modern, 21st century India the hijacking of Hinduism must not be allowed. Let sane and sensible Hindus speak. Let us reclaim the real Hinduism."






Sex Workers Oppose Derogatory Festival Custom


Posted on 2002/9/3 9:46:02 ( 885 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





KOLKATA, INDIA, August 28, 2002: While Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas dedicated generous celluloid space to the Bengali tradition of procuring earth from a prostitute's threshold for Goddess Durga's idols, the country's largest body of sex workers has declined to yield to the pre-puja custom this year. For the first time, the conglomerate Durbar Mahila Samanvaya Committee has opposed the age-old tradition, saying it was "disrespectful" for the community. "We are not going to be part of such a tradition which is based on the principle that customers come to us and shed all their sins, and in turn take away earth, signifying piety, from outside our doors. We refuse to be treated as society's dustbins," the DMSC president, Swapna Gain, told Press Trust of India. The decision to spread public awareness against the "derogatory" custom was taken at DMSC's two-day workshop on rights of sex workers that ended last Saturday, she said. Gain, who leads the committee of over 60,000 sex workers across West Bengal, said that the myth portrayed sex workers as the lowest strata of society who were elevated to the mainstream only for a day when sculptors came to their doors for the earth, called "veshyadwar mrittika."






Kolkata to Impose Fines for Littering During Festival


Posted on 2002/9/3 9:45:02 ( 1307 reads )


Source: The Telegraph





KOLKATA, INDIA, August 29, 2002: The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has embarked on a clean-puja (festival) campaign. Around 500 trash bins will be placed on main thoroughfares for passersby to dump their trash. The conservancy department is investing over $30,000 for the fiberglass bins and the civic authorities mean business. They will make the errant Calcuttan pay for the litter, if they bypass the bins. According to CMC estimates, city roads and pavements are littered with about 100 tons of trash every day, with substantially more on puja days.






Mumbai Temple Enforces Dress Code


Posted on 2002/9/3 9:44:02 ( 1870 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA July 18, 2002: The next time you visit the Siddhivinayak (Ganesha) temple, Prabhadevi, and the temple guard finds your dress inappropriate for the holy environs, you could be given a lesson in modest dressing and the temple guard will advise you not to wear such clothes the next time you visit there. A guard says, "Many of them could be first-time visitors unaware of the rules. We do not stop them from entering, but we tell them gently not to wear such dresses the next time they are here." The temple administration has put up a board of requests in Marathi at one of the gates. The temple, consecrated in 1801, is the city's most popular, with over two hundred thousand devotees on Tuesdays. Lately, it has also become popular with the young, especially college students who seek Ganesha's blessings for success in exams. Commenting on the restrictions on clothing, Hegde says, "This is a temple, not a picnic spot." Sharayu Thakur, chairperson of the managing committee, says that most devotees of Siddhivinayak support the dress code. Goregaon resident Aparna Joshi says, "This is a sacred place. The authorities have done right by issuing instructions on dress. Limits of decency must be maintained."






Merrymaking Marks Lord Krishna's Birthday in Maharashtra


Posted on 2002/9/2 9:49:02 ( 873 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA, August 31, 2002: In the narrow lanes of Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra, groups of youngsters formed human pyramids and brought down earthen pots brimming with curds and milk on the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami on Saturday. Pots, filled with fresh white curds, home-made butter milk, bananas and a coconut were hung several feet above ground level with the help of thick ropes, decorated with green mango leaves and bright orange marigold flowers in various sections of Mumbai. Scores of spectators lined up to view the pot breaking ritual, organized annually to mark Krishna's favorite prank of robbing his favorite dish, home-made curds, by forming a human pyramid to reach the pot hung high up. In various parts of Mumbai, professional groups who had undergone several weeks of training, participated in pot breaking competition with pyramids of six people high made up of dozens on youth.






Mumbai Offers City's First Carnatic Music Degree


Posted on 2002/9/2 9:48:02 ( 909 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA, August 30, 2002: The Shanmukhananda Sangeet Vidyalaya will offer a University of Mumbai-recognized degree course in the Indian classical Carnatic music as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of its parent body, the Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, located in Sion. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (Carnatic) to be offered by the Vidyalaya will be the first degree course in Carnatic music offered outside Chennai. The course is part of the sabha's plan to popularize the learning and appreciation of classical music in Mumbai, say members. The Vidyalaya presently offers diploma courses in Carnatic music and teaches instrumental music in the Hindustani style to nearly 730 students. According to members of the sabha, there has been a gradual decline in the popularity of classical music in the city though several organizations have been working hard to change that. "There has been a revival of classical music in South India with more youngsters learning it, but Mumbai has been unaffected. We want to play the role of a catalyst here," said V. Shankar, president of the sabha.




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