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Hindu Life in Myanmar, a Reader Responds

Posted on 2003/3/7 8:47:02 ( 1468 reads )


EPPSTEIN, WEST GERMANY, March 7, 2003: HPI's short piece yesterday on Myanmar lamented the lack of news about that country. Indrajit Ganguli, "source" above, responded with this personal travelogue: "I was born in Myanmar and always wanted to visit the place of my birth, but it was not possible due to restrictions. However, the government of Myanmar relaxed these restrictions and we flew from Kolkata to Yangon (previously Rangoon), the capital city of Myanmar. We visited Shwe dagon pagoda, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world and were very glad to see the devotees there, the discipline, calmness and cleanliness. This pagoda is something worth seeing; the architecture is overwhelming. In the afternoon we visited a Hindu temple run by the local Tamil population. Here also we were glad to see the cleanliness and discipline. From Yangon we went to Mandalay, which is situated about 600 km north of Yangon. Mandalay was once the capital on Myanmar and definitely the cultural capital of Myanmar. Here we visited several Buddhist pagodas and quite a few Hindu temples. There is also a Kali temple run by the local Bengali population. It is of interest to note that the Myanmarese people also visit the Hindu temples and the Hindus visit the pagodas. This is a perfect example of total tolerance and understanding. The nicest thing is to experience the calm and quietness at these temples and pagodas where one really has the complete feeling of peace. Praying in these temples and pagodas is an experience of contemplation. From Mandalay we went to Pagan, the old capital of Myanmar. Once upon a time there were about 5,000 temples here, today around 2,600 temples are still existing. Pagan is an open museum. There are several temples dedicated to Vishnu and Siva and a large number naturally dedicated to Buddha. The architecture of these temples are fascinating -- North Indian type, South Indian Chola, Mon Khmer, Thai and several other types -- and pujas (Hindu worship) is offered in many of these temples. From Pagan we went to Taunggyi, the place of my birth, up in the Shan mountains. It is here that my father and a few others from the Bengali community started the Durgabari temple in the thirties. It was a temporary wooden structure in those days, but I was proud to see that the Durga temple now is a permanent structure with the permanent Durgadevi murthi with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh. A Nepalese brahmin is appointed as a pujari (priest), and daily puja services are conducted. Apart from the Durga temple, there are three other Hindu temples in this town, dedicated to Radha-Krishna, Siva and Vishnu. Also there is a small Arya Samaj prayer hall. The Myanmarese people are very religious, and by that I do not mean that they just go to temple and offer puja etc. Religion can be seen in their everyday life and in every action. As one single group of Indian origin, Tamils are a majority and are very active and dedicated in continuing our Hindu religious tradition in Myanmar. Myanmar is still isolated and perhaps this splendid isolation allowed them to keep their culture."

Thai Monks Connect With Cyberspace

Posted on 2003/3/7 8:46:02 ( 1008 reads )


BANGKOK, THAILAND, March 4, 2003: A new project from Thailand's Ministry of Education aimed at networking monastic communities in remote areas will bring 100 Buddhist monks to the capital next month for training in information technology and the internet. Apart from linking temples nationwide, the idea is to leverage on the teaching role that monks have traditionally played in Thai society, passing on the new skills that they acquire. After a week-long workshop, the monks will return to their monasteries and train others, the ministry's Religious Affairs Department said. One in two temples from each province is slotted to join the pilot project, and each temple will be given between three and five computers. Free internet access would be provided via telephones or satellite. Currently only some monasteries in the major cities have internet access, while remote monasteries often do not. Many Thais believe this will be a boost for the religion, which is one of the pillars of the Thai state. The project finds favor with those who believe that education in Buddhism should be reoriented to be more in touch with the real world and that the clergy's inertia and insularity are hurting Thai Buddhism.

US Secretary of State Rejects Plea to Name India for "Religious Violations"

Posted on 2003/3/6 8:49:02 ( 952 reads )


WASHINGTON, D.C., March 6, 2003: The Bush administration has rejected the recommendation of a US commission to brand India a violator of religious freedom. Following the Gujarat riots, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom had recommended India's inclusion in a list of "countries of particular concern." Acting on the commission's omnibus report, Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday designated six nations -- China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar and Sudan -- as "countries of particular concern" -- North Korea being the only new addition to last year's list. He, however, declined to include India and five other countries in the classification. Hindus were astounded by the Commission's recommendations, which put India, a nation with a long history of religious tolerance, in the same camp as oppressive regimes such as North Korea, or even the other five rejected for listing, which included Saudi Arabia, where freedom of religion is almost non-existent. The Commission report included the complaint that the State Department routinely ignored its recommendations, which carry no weight unless adopted by the Secretary of State. The Commission appears in its reports to be primarily concerned with the rights of Christians and Christian missionaries in foreign countries.

Rajasthan Provides Relief for Gods and Goddesses

Posted on 2003/3/6 8:48:02 ( 973 reads )


JAIPUR, INDIA, March 5, 2003: Even Gods and Goddesses will receive relief in drought-hit Rajasthan's annual budget for the next fiscal year. Presenting the budget in the state assembly on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pradyuman Singh said temples were falling to ruins in the absence of proper maintenance. Many temples were not in a position to manage rituals, pujas and "bhog" (prasadam, food offered to the Deity) due to the paucity of funds, he said. "For such temples, the government has made an additional provision of US$210,000," he said. The government announced a similar amount for the "Gau Seva Ayog" for cow protection measures. An additional allocation of $100,000 was made for the Waqf Board and Madarsa Board for the maintenance of Waqf Properties (mosques) and for modern education in madarsas (Muslim schools).

Hindu Activities in Myanmar

Posted on 2003/3/6 8:47:02 ( 1182 reads )


YANGON, MYANMAR, March 5, 2003: The celebration of Deepavali by the All Myanmar Tamil Hindu Foundation and donations given to the "Thanantana Dhammapala (Hindu) Association in Pabedan Township" are two Hindu events that took place in Myanmar recently. Readers may contact "source" above for news on Hindu activities in Myanmar. The stories are a bit dated, however, HPI rarely sees any news from Myanmar.

Court Orders Ayodhya Site Excavation

Posted on 2003/3/5 8:49:02 ( 1004 reads )


LUCKNOW, INDIA, March 5, 2003: In a major development, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to carry out the excavation of the disputed site at Ayodhya within one week. The special full bench comprising Justices Sudhir Narain, S. R. Alam and Bhanwar Singh asked the ASI to excavate the site, except where the statue of Lord Ram is placed, within one week and inform the court on March 24. The bench also directed that the puja darshan (daily worship) should also not be effected during the exercise. Vikas International, the company which had conducted a ground penetrating radar survey of the site has been asked to provide technical assistance to the ASI. The bench passed the order after hearing views from both the parties on a report filed by the Vikas International.

Rare Siva Sculpture Found At Darasuram

Posted on 2003/3/5 8:48:02 ( 1037 reads )


THANJAVUR, INDIA, March 2, 2003: A rare sculpture of Lord Siva with a flute in his hands has been found at the Irawadeeswara temple at Darasuram, near Kumbakonam, by Kudavayil Balasubramaniyan, researcher of the Saraswathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur. It has been found on a pillar at the Rajakampeeran Thirumantapam of the temple, built by Rajaraja-II, Chola King. "There is no equivalent sculpture available anywhere in Tamil Nadu," claims Dr. Balasubramaniyan. The tradition is to sculpt Vishnu as Krishna with a flute in his hands. But the image at the Darasuram temple bears a deer and an ax in the hands above and a flute in the two hands below. The temple, under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India, is an architectural marvel and mini-form of the Thanjavur Big Temple.

Canadian Minister Requests Military Provide More Diversity

Posted on 2003/3/5 8:47:02 ( 1052 reads )

Source: Religion News Service

OTTAWA, CANADA, March 5, 2003: Religious services in the Canadian armed forces are controlled exclusively by a few major Christian groups, discriminating against other faiths and minority Christian churches, a Pentecostal minister has charged in a human rights complaint. The forces have no Jewish, Hindu or Muslim chaplains, says Rev. Sheldon Johnston in the letter of complaint. A defense spokesman admitted the chaplains don't represent modern Canada and said officials are working on the problem, starting with the recruitment of the forces' first Muslim chaplain. There are 144 regular force chaplains, divided about equally between Catholic and Protestant. The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it will refer Johnston's complaint to a human rights tribunal. B'nai B'rith, the Jewish human rights organization, is backing his crusade and is considering intervening in the hearing.

Bharat Keshar Simha is New World Hindu Federation President

Posted on 2003/3/4 8:49:02 ( 1396 reads )


KATHMANDU, NEPAL, February 28, 2003: Bharat Keshar Simha, retired major general of the Royal Nepalese Army and honorary ADC to His Majesty the King, was recently elected unanimously as the president of the World Hindu Federation at their recent meeting in Gorakhpur, India. Asked whether the WHF, being a religious organization, can influence politics, Mr. Simha stated, "Definitely it can. I firmly believe that religion and politics are different. But having said that, I would like to draw attention to the sort of behavior our leaders are conducting and the fact that they are dragging religion into politics, instead of being the other way round. All their actions should be dominated by dharma. Though we translate dharma as religion, it is totally different. I think dharma is more inclusive and more meaningful. Whereas religion merely divides people -- like there are Christians, Muslims, Hindus and so on -- dharma, especially the Sanatana Dharma, actually is for all humankind. Irrespective of any religion, dharma is the way of life for every human being." To read the complete interview go to "source" above.

US Temples Damaged in Attacks

Posted on 2003/3/4 8:48:02 ( 981 reads )


ST. LOUIS, UNITED STATES, February 23, 2003: Security is being stepped up for the Hindu Temple of St. Louis that was firebombed twice in a week. Federal agents are trying to determine if the attacks were youthful mischief or hate-fueled religious bigotry. No one was injured by the attacks as the temple's massive metal doors blocked the first firebomb, and flame-retardant carpeting limited damage from the second, which was thrown through a window. There was no immediate indication if the February 23 attack was related to one that same day at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas, about 250 miles away, where someone broke the glass front door and caused $700 in damage. Temple officials were concerned about whether the violence could escalate, possibly involving someone who wrongly equates Hindus with Islamic extremists. Several mosques and temples across the country and Canada have been vandalized since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Minor Attack on Hindu Temple In US Baffles Police

Posted on 2003/3/3 8:49:02 ( 1013 reads )


ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, March 1, 2003: The police and FBI are at a loss why a fire bomb was thrown at the Hindu temple in St. Louis, Missouri, on the night of February 22. Officials have registered the attack as a hate crime case. "It seemed to be a crude bomb or Molotov cocktail, which set fire to the front door of the temple," Krishna Reddy, president of the temple trustee board, said. The fire quickly burned itself out, charring a four-foot section of the door. The attack happened after midnight, Reddy thinks. Temple officials discovered the attack when they arrived to open the shrine the next morning. "There are four priests living in the compound a little behind the temple. They did not hear anything that night," Reddy said. "We are getting a lot of support from the police, FBI and other officials. There is no panic in the community," Jiwan Singla, chairman of the temple building committee, said. "Everything is normal, but we are increasing security," he said. Established 13 years ago, it is one of the largest temples in the US, serving more than 8,000 families. "The attack has not changed anything," Singla noted. All the activities will go on as scheduled, he said.

VHP and RSS Said to Face Fund-Raising Issues in UK

Posted on 2003/3/3 8:48:02 ( 1007 reads )


LONDON, UK, February 28, 2003: The following material is from the Paknews.com website: "The British Government is under pressure by its Asian nationals to look into reports that funds collected in the name of charity here are being sent to extremists in India. Indian Muslim Federation UK has demanded that VHP and RSS should be banned for their alleged involvement in communal activities and fanning hatred in India. A leading British daily Financial Times investigation has exposed a link between charity being collected from UK-US and said it was being channeled to extremists in India."

Story Planned on Hindus in Myanmar

Posted on 2003/3/3 8:47:02 ( 989 reads )


KAUAI, HAWAII, March 3, 2003: Hinduism Today is planning for a story on the one-million plus Hindus of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The New York Times story as "source" above gives a lot of information about the country, though little about Hinduism there. If you know someone in Myanmar who can help with the visit of our reporter this year or next, kindly e-mail ar@hindu.org.

Goddess Devi Procession Sparks Unrest

Posted on 2003/2/28 8:49:02 ( 1322 reads )


BANGALORE, INDIA, February 25, 2003: At least 24 people were injured, along with damage to vehicles and shops, in communal violence that erupted in the Anepalya and Neelasandra areas in the city on Tuesday. The problems began around 8:45 p.m. when devotees of Goddess Annamma Devi, playing music, passed in procession through a masjid in the area. City Police Commissioner M. D. Singh, Joint Commissioner Jeevan Kumar Gaonkar and all the DCPs have held meetings with leaders of both the communities (Hindus and Muslims) and appealed to them to maintain peace.

Toronto Temple Hosts Memorial Service for Dr. Chawla

Posted on 2003/2/28 8:48:02 ( 960 reads )


TORONTO, CANADA, February 28, 2003: A special memorial service honoring Dr. Kalpana Chawla will be held at the Hindu Mandir and Cultural Center, Messissauga, Toronto, March 8, 2003. Dr. Chawla, first Indian woman astronaut, was killed in the recent explosion of the space shuttle Columbia. Kindly contact "source" above for additional information.

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