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Aging Palani Deity in the Midst of a Controversy

Posted on 2002/11/23 8:49:02 ( 1347 reads )


PALANI, INDIA, November 20, 2002 : Named Dhandayuthapani, the presiding Deity at the famous Palani Hills Temple is Lord Karthikeya. The saint physician and composer, Bogar Siddhar, is believed to have crafted the existing statue using nine highly toxic herbs over 5,000 years ago. The aging murthi has been developing cracks and for some years abhishekams have been limited to selected days in the year. The controversy over the reported attempts to replace the murthi has resurfaced with a proposal to install a 100 kg golden statue alongside the main Deity. The controversy comes after the recent row, which arose after the Archaeological Survey of India expressed an interest in taking over the Sri Arunachaleshwarar temple at Thiruvannamalai. Various organizations have questioned reports about the cracks and have threatened protests if any effort is made to replace the ancient statue. Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister P. C. Ramaswamy has so far declined to respond to questions regarding the possibility of making changes in the ancient Palani Hills Temple. V. Ganapati Sthapati, India's foremost temple architect, commented to Hinduism Today on the Palani Hills Deity several years ago, saying there are established procedures in the shastras for the replacement of aging or damaged Deities.

India Development and Relief Fund Says They Aren't Funding Hate Campaigns

Posted on 2002/11/23 8:48:02 ( 1438 reads )


MARYLAND, U.S.A., November 22, 2002: The India Development and Relief Fund, a Maryland-based charity, has denied allegations that it is raising millions of dollars from nonresident Indians and American corporations and using the money to fund a "hate campaign" in India. A group of Christians have released in New Delhi a report accusing IDRF of being a front organization for the Sangh Parivar and its numerous concerns and of funneling millions of dollars every year to be used by "violent, sectarian Hindu supremacist organizations." "IDRF dismisses the allegations made by the groups as pure concoction, untruthful and self contradicting," the charity said in a statement on Friday. The report by Biju Mathew, a New York based professor, "is merely a string of allegations, manipulated skillfully by piecing together information available on the IDRF web site," IDRF stated. The statement by IDRF continues, "The allegations do not stand up to any rational scrutiny. Donors to IDRF are among most well-informed of the donors to any South Asian nonprofit charitable organizations operating in the US. IDRF questions the credibility, motives and the political agenda of these splintered and virtually unknown groups that have launched the Hate Campaign against IDRF. IDRF does not subscribe to any religious, political or sectarian agendas. Furthermore, IDRF does not discriminate against any religion, sect or race in either the collection or distribution of funds."

The Eagles Have Not Landed on Lord Siva's Sacred Hill

Posted on 2002/11/23 8:47:02 ( 997 reads )

Source: Hindustan Times

TIRUKKALUKUNRAM, INDIA, November 19, 2002: It used to be a fascinating sight. At the stroke of noon every day, two eagles would appear from nowhere and descend on the Vedagiriswarar Temple atop a hill at Tirukkalukunram. There they would eat the rice pongal served by a temple priest, wash their beaks in a pond and fly away. Thousands of pilgrims would visit Tirukkalukunram -- literally the hill of the holy eagles -- 60 km from Chennai, to watch this spectacle that took place unfailingly for decades. But, for nearly ten years the eagles have not appeared. Efforts are under way to train a pair of eagles to fly to the temple and eat pongal. The local community has asked the wildlife department to check out the exact species of the birds from old photos and see if younger birds of the same species from nearby areas can be housed atop the hill.

Helicopter Service for Vaishno Devi Pilgrims

Posted on 2002/11/23 8:46:02 ( 1028 reads )


JAMMU, INDIA, November 18, 2002: For hundreds of ailing or aging pilgrims unable to make it to the Vaishno Devi shrine near Jammu because of the difficult terrain, a new helicopter service is a perfect alternative. The helicopter service will be available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning November 19. The management says they hope to make a helicopter available every 15 minutes. The service will cost US$43 for a single journey and $86 for a round journey. "It was an enjoyable ride in the helicopter. All through we have had no problem. I am now planning to bring my mother who can't walk up to the shrine," said Anil Singh, the first passenger who used the new service. Many pilgrims prefer the traditional barefoot climb. But for those who would otherwise not make the pilgrimage, this is a welcome alternative.

International Association of the History of Religions Conference

Posted on 2002/11/23 8:45:02 ( 972 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 20, 2002: The Center for the Study of Developing Societies, in collaboration with India International Center, will host a regional conference of the International Association of the History of Religions in New Delhi from December 18-21, 2003. The last date for submission of abstracts is December 15, 2002. The conference aims to encourage rigorous secular studies of the religious traditions in India, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, including their various sects and branches. Also, in order to promote the study of religions in India as a careful secular discipline, the conference hopes to establish a process for bringing together on a regular basis scholars in India who are working in the field of religion. For more information on the conference readers may contact "source" above. HPI adds: It is a fact of the academic world that Indian universities rarely have a department of religion, something present at nearly every Western university. There are almost no "professors of Hinduism" in India itself, while there are "professors of Hinduism" at Western universities. As a result, much academic research on Hinduism published in the most respected academic journals has taken place in the West and not in India.

Telegrams to the Next Life?

Posted on 2002/11/23 8:44:02 ( 937 reads )


November 23, 2002: This website states that "For a fee of $10 per word (5 word minimum), a customer can have a telegram delivered to someone who has passed away. This is done with the help of terminally Ill volunteers who memorize the telegrams before passing away, and then deliver the telegrams after they have passed away. We call this an 'afterlife telegram.' " HPI is pretty certain this cute website is an elaborate joke, but it does contain some creative theological musings on how one might deliver such a message in the afterlife.

Ayurvedic Medicine Takes on the World

Posted on 2002/11/22 8:49:02 ( 970 reads )


COCHIN, INDIA, November 5, 2002: Delegates to the world's first conference on traditional medicine are leaving the southern Indian city of Cochin pledging to raise the global profile of ayurvedic remedies. More than 2,000 Indian and foreign delegates spent four days discussing the relevance of the 5,000-year-old tradition of herbal and alternative medication in the modern world. Prominent practitioners and academics from India and elsewhere spoke about the benefits of natural, nonchemical and noninvasive traditional medical practices. Ayurveda uses herbs and spices like basil, turmeric, garlic, ginger and aloe vera, as well as yoga exercises, to treat physical and psychological problems. D. N. Tewari, chairman of the Ayurveda Task Force in India's Planning Commission, say ayurveda's attractions are growing by the day. "The world as a whole is switching over from chemical drugs to natural drugs," he told the BBC, "because they are nonnarcotic, they have no side-effects and are easily available." With 15,000 plant species, India was well placed to increase its share of the US$75 billion global market in medicinal plants, which is growing by at least seven percent a year.

Lord Ganesha Enters the Digital Art World

Posted on 2002/11/22 8:48:02 ( 1085 reads )


PUNE, INDIA, November 13, 2002: Portraying Lord Ganesha using a digital printing medium, Pune-based artist Subhash Awchat has a showing for ten days at the Y. B. Chavan Center, starting November 22. Subhash says, "Lord Ganesha has been a part of me since childhood and has always intrigued me. I chose the Lord as a subject to allow the common man to identify himself with my theme -- since Ganapati is one of the most popular and revered Deities amongst the masses." In his exhibition, featuring four sizes of images on canvas, 34 different paintings reveal Ganesha in various modes, from a librarian, to a common man, to an innocent child. Mr. Awchat has been working on the Ganesha theme for two years and says, "By way of personifying Ganesha through paintings, I want to prove that the Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings and not in temples alone." On November 14, Subhash is also participating in a workshop with children. The canvasses produced at the workshop will be auctioned to raise funds for disadvantaged children.

Cambodia's Teachers Want God Removed from Textbooks

Posted on 2002/11/22 8:47:02 ( 1051 reads )


PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA, November 18, 2002: Cambodian teachers are demanding the word God be removed from school textbooks amid an increasing encroachment of outside religions on a mainly Buddhist society. The rankling references appear in 12th-grade social science textbooks. According to the Cambodian Independent Teachers' Association (CITA), mentioning God is a direct contradiction of the Constitution. CITA chief Rong Chhun said Article 43 of the Constitution states that Buddhism is the state religion and referring to God in any textbook risks confusing Buddhism with Christianity in class. Buddhists do not believe in the existence of "God," a point the Dalai Lama himself has raised at various interfaith meetings. The offending words appear in second chapter of The 12th Grade Social Science Book which lectures students on moral behavior and urges them to "put the interests of God above all others." Some 85 per cent of Cambodians are Buddhist, about four percent are Christian and the rest are Muslim.

Christian Organizations Support Dalits Conversion to Buddhism

Posted on 2002/11/22 8:46:02 ( 1021 reads )


BANGLADESH, INDIA, November 29, 2001: This interesting article is by Rationalist International, an Indian-based society of nonreligious secular humanists who believe in a scientific approach to life devoid of theology. In this article they accuse India's Christian missionaries of orchestrating the recent conversion of Dalits, or "untouchables," not to Christianity, but to Buddhism. The hidden agenda, believes Rationalist International, is to make mass conversion acceptable to the Government and the media. Conversion to Buddhism provides the necessary method, because under Indian law Buddhism is regarded as a part of Hinduism, and conversion from Hinduism to Buddhism does not set off any legal sanctions or even much concern. The Christians reason that once a number of these conversions to Buddhism take place, then mass conversion will be acceptable to Christianity also. In reports seen by HPI, Christian organizations have reported these conversions ceremonies to supporters in the West as including both conversions to Buddhism and Christianity, but in fact, only conversion to Buddhism occurred -- so far. Even so, the existence of these other reports shows the Christian hand in the event. Christian evangelists hope that they can convert all of India's Dalit -- some 200 million people. Part of their plan, enacted in the latest edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, is to separate out the Dalits as of "tribal" faith and not as part of Hinduism. In the New Delhi conversion ceremony, the Rationalist's report states, thousands denounced all Hindu Gods and rituals, the belief in reincarnation, and raised their hands in agreement to become Buddhist. Official organizers of the Delhi meeting was the "All India Conference of Scheduled Castes and Tribes," an umbrella organization of government employees with a membership of more than three million. However, behind the scenes the financier of the event was the All-India Christian Council (AICC), an outgrowth of the Evangelical Church, which comprises neo-Protestant "born-again" and missionary organizations and is dominated by Baptists and Pentecostals. When thousands of Hindus are allowed to become Buddhists, just by repeating some chants and raising their hands, the AICC has a wedge to open the gates of India for their future crusades some believe.

An Invitation to The Discover India, Deepavali Festival of Lights

Posted on 2002/11/22 8:45:02 ( 1062 reads )


PHOENIX, U.S.A., November 22, 2002: Sunday, November 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. a celebration of Deepavali and India is being held at the Heritage Square, Phoenix, Arizona. The program includes North and South Indian Food, arts and crafts, henna design, books, music, Indian clothes, jewelry and accessories. Demonstrations include Indian cooking, the sari and talks on astrology, hatha yoga, and Robert Arnett, renowned photographer and author of the wonderful book, "India Unveiled," speaking on India. A cultural program ending with fireworks culminate this grand event. Readers may contact "source" above for additional information.

Facilities for Police Going on Sabarimala Pilgrimage

Posted on 2002/11/22 8:44:02 ( 1091 reads )


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, INDIA, November 20, 2002: Elaborate facilities have been arranged at the police camps for police personnel who wish to go on pilgrimage to Sabarimala. Unlike in the West, where police guards would stay aloof from a religious ceremony, in India it is common for the police on duty to participate in the worship as much as they can, within bounds of their responsibility. Separate space has been designated for those observing the customary fast to perform rituals connected with the pilgrimage. A separate vegetarian dining area has also been set up in the camps for the pilgrims. The policemen going to Sabarimala would be given preference during the deployment of security personnel at Pampa and Sannidhanam. However, the request for deployment would be considered purely on the basis of the requirement of police personnel at these places. Policemen who wish to go to Sabarimala must seek permission from their respective unit chiefs for growing beards and have been asked also to specify the date and season of their pilgrimage. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has issued a statement asking that the policemen posted at Sabarimala be exempt from wearing uniforms. However, senior police officers said that as per standing orders and existing practice, only police personnel deployed near the temple precincts were exempted from wearing shoes, belts and caps.

Sabarimala Pilgrimage Season Begins

Posted on 2002/11/21 8:49:02 ( 1035 reads )


SABARIMALA, INDIA: November 16, 2002: The Lord Ayyappa temple was opened this afternoon for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage, one of South India's largest religious events. The Melsanthi, A. R. Raman Nampoothiri, opened the sanctum and lit a traditional lamp amid chants of "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa," at 5:30 p.m. The new Melsanthi (chief priest), Perikamana Sankara Narayanan Nampoothiri, of Pinarayi Ganapathibhadram, ascended the holy 18 solid-gold-clad steps when the gates were opened. The installation of Sankara Narayanan Nampoothiri as new Sabarimala Melsanthi was done by the Thantri (priest), Kantaru Mohanaru, later in the evening. The Thantri poured kalasom (holy water) on the new Melsanthi as part of the installation ceremony. Hundreds of devotees thronged the Sannidhanam to witness the ceremony. Additionally, this year the Government and the Travancore Devasthanam Board (TDB) have taken all possible measures for the smooth conduct of the annual festival. Local hospitals will operate around the clock during the two-month-long pilgrimage season. Also, heavy vehicles will not be permitted to Pampa. Passengers must disembark at Nilackal and continue their journey to Pampa. The TDB has also set up temporary stalls at nine points on the Pampa Sannidhanam trekking path to supply medicated drinking water, biscuits, tea and coffee.

Thousands of Women Pilgrimage to the "Ladies' Sabarimala"

Posted on 2002/11/21 8:48:02 ( 969 reads )


KOTTAYAM, INDIA, November 17, 2002: The famous Ponkala celebration, popularly known as "Ladies' Sabarimala," at Chakkulathukavu in Neerattupuram, Kerala, will be held on November 20. At the famous hill shrine of Sabarimala women are not allowed to visit the temple of Lord Ayyappa during the reproductive time of their life. This has led to the rise of a Ladies Sabarimala, where all women offer worship to Lord Ayyappa after observing a 41-day vrata. Thousands of women from all over India, irrespective of their religious beliefs, are expected to attend the rituals.

Expert Says Indian Parliament Needs Vastu Improvements

Posted on 2002/11/21 8:47:02 ( 1294 reads )

Source: Deccan Chronicle

NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 15, 2002: The dome shape of parliament is being blamed for the frequent bedlam that ensues inside the building as well as the large number of internal and external problems the country is facing. Vastu expert Ashwinie Kumar Bansal says the Parliament building is an odd piece of architecture that has been built according to the fancies of foreigners and does not relate to Indian architectural, cultural or Vastu values. Vastu Shastra is the science of temple and building construction for harmony with the forces of nature, man and God. Bansal attributed a host of problems to the British-built Parliament building. These include political instability, the country's partition in 1947, communal disharmony, the terror attack in December, wars, unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. He adds that the building was also bad for those who built it in 1921. After 1921, India faced a series of upheavals that eventually overthrew the British rulers. Bansal, author of 33 books on Vastu and Feng Shui, inspected Parliament twice this year at the invitation of Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi.

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