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Vegetarian School Lunch Advocates Seek Hindu Endorsements

Posted on 2002/10/19 8:48:02 ( 1007 reads )


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, October 19, 2002: Project Healthy Beginnings, a coalition of parents, health professionals, environmentalists, and animal advocates, are working to pass legislation in the state of California that would provide for plant-centered menu offerings for school lunches. They are seeking Hindus who would be willing to endorse their program and help with their goals of healthful alternatives to the meat based school lunch programs. HPI readers can visit their web site for further information and find how they can help at "source" above.

India Recycles Polluting Fly-Ash for Construction

Posted on 2002/10/19 8:47:02 ( 1060 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, October 16, 2002: To reduce pollution caused by fly-ash generated by the city's thermal power stations, the Delhi state government has asked the Central Public Works Division and Public Works Department to begin using the coal residue as construction material for building nonload bearing structures. The state government has also decided to formulate a policy making it mandatory for all civic and government agencies to use fly-ash in construction and renovation. It was observed that the residue generated at thermal power stations was creating a major environmental hazard, not only causing air pollution, but also contaminating groundwater. The San Marga Iraivan Temple, Hawaii, is the largest modern demonstration of this technology in the world. Dr. Kumar Mehta, professor emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, has advocated the use of fly ash in construction for many years, and was instrumental in the engineering of Iraivan Temple's monolithic concrete and fly-ash composition foundation, and one with decidely impressive load-bearing abilities. Information regarding fly-ash use in Iraivan Temple may be found at "source" above. Readers can contact Dr. Mehta for more technical information at pkmehta@uclink4.berkeley.edu.

Priest School Brings Hope for Jobless

Posted on 2002/10/18 8:49:02 ( 1773 reads )


KOLKATA, INDIA October 14, 2002: The Purohit Paathshala on Haritaki Bagan Lane, near Amherst Street, is a unique priest-training school providing hope for the unemployed. During Durga Puja, 40-year-old Narayan Shashtri will be assisting the main purohit of Nayanchand Dutta Street, Sarbojonin Durgotsav. "I will earn $16 and will also bring back clothes, food grains, fruits and sweets for my family," Shashtri said. Founded by the Baidic Pandit-O-Purohit Mahamilan Kendra, the school is a platform for purohits (priests) of the major community of Durga Pujas of the city. Started in April, the first class comprises 35 students who pay a monthly tuition fee of around $1. The students are offered a year's course. They can choose between the comparatively easier pandit bisharad (puja or Deity worship performing mantras) or the one that leads to the pandit ratna (additional mantras for weddings, thread ceremony, funerals, etc.). The final written examination will be conducted in April by a panel of Sanskrit scholars. On completion, students will be offered community and family pujas to perform. Kendra president Netai Chakraborty said that he has written to the Banaras Hindu University and was expecting an affiliation next year in the university's distance learning programs.

Tamil Nadu Renovating Temples Tanks for Water Conservation

Posted on 2002/10/18 8:48:02 ( 340 reads )


CHENNAI,INDIA, October 18, 2002: People in Tamil Nadu are renovating temple tanks in their efforts to conserve water, a very serious problem in a region that is currently trying to procure a supply of water from neighboring Karnataka. The aim is to convert, or rather restore, the temple tanks into catchments for rainwater harvesting. The landscape of Tamil Nadu is dotted with temples, and many of those temples traditionally had tanks that were used for various ceremonies. These also served as natural aquifers and helped recharge neighborhood groundwater. But over the years many have gone out of use and overflowing mounds of silt and garbage have replaced the water these tanks once contained. The drive began with the Parthasarathy and Kapaleewswaran temples in Chennai. The roads and highways department is also involved and is studying the feasibility of diverting rainwater from the storm-water drains on the state and national highways and major road networks into the temple tanks.

Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime

Posted on 2002/10/18 8:47:02 ( 1151 reads )


USA, October 18, 2002: Veena Oldenburg's book is a provocative view on the history of dowry in India that takes a fresh look at this controversial custom. The Hindu practice of dowry has long been blamed for the murder of wives and female infants in India. Oldenburg argues that these killings are neither about dowry nor reflective of an Indian culture or caste system that encourages violence against women. Rather, such killings can be traced directly to the influences of the British colonial era. In the precolonial period, dowry was an institution managed by women, for women, to enable them to establish their status and have recourse in an emergency. As a consequence of the massive economic and societal upheaval brought on by British rule, women's entitlements to the resources obtained from land were erased and their control of the system diminished, ultimately resulting in a devaluing of their very lives. Combining rigorous research with impassioned analysis and a nuanced treatment of a complex, deeply controversial subject, this book critiques colonialism while holding a mirror to gender discrimination in modern India. If readers are interested in a new look at the dowry debate, the book is available at Amazon.com, "source," above.

Puja at Your Desktop

Posted on 2002/10/17 8:49:02 ( 1115 reads )


KOLKATA, INDIA, October 11, 2002: For those who wish to do a sightseeing of the magnificent temporary temples set up along the city streets for Durga festival) at their own convenience without the crowds and traffic, several sites are available for viewing right on your desktop. Sashti onwards, pujo4u.com will showcase 100 pujas (as the temporary temples are called) on their site. The site has sections on puja including literature, music, cuisine, sweets, traffic and weather. There is a section on fashion, too, in which dresses for both men and women are on display. You can log on to calcuttaweb.com and know about pujas in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Asia. For those who wish to know more about the tradition behind Durga Puja there is information on the traditions and rituals and even a behind-the-scenes peek, at bangalinet.com/durgapuja.htm. The site has an innovative e-puja concept that allows devotees to pay his virtual offerings to the Goddess. The interactive presentation has flowers, lamps and even arati that can be set in motion by a mouse click. Nearly all sites have e-greetings available.

Doctoral Candidate Seeks Reader Input

Posted on 2002/10/17 8:48:02 ( 1130 reads )


AUSTIN, TEXAS, October 17, 2002: Ph.D. candidate, Karline McLain, at The University of Texas, Austin, is seeking readers of Amar Chitra Katha comic books for a survey. "I am interested in the ways in which these comics combine text and image to retell classical mythological stories, as well as narratives of more recent historical events," McLain says. While spending last year in Mumbai interviewing the authors, artists and editors who create the comics, she was also able to speak with many fan club presidents and other readers of the comics in various cities in India. "Now I am trying to survey readers of these comic books who live outside of India," she says, "to learn how they have discovered these comic books, which stories they have most enjoyed, and what images have been most memorable to them." Readers of HPI who are interested in responding to Ms McLain's questionnaire may log onto "source" above.

Sanskrit Celebrations in Canada

Posted on 2002/10/17 8:47:02 ( 1135 reads )


MONTREAL, CANADA, October 12, 2002: Celebrating Sanskrit and it's contribution to Indian civilization, Bharat Bhavan Hall was filled with a capacity crowd. Various scholars spoke on the contribution of Sanskrit to the culture and civilization of India (sanskriti) and the role Sanskrit historically played as the cultural lingua franca of India. The question and answer session provoked vigorous debate over the potential role of Sanskrit as facilitator of modernization of Indian culture and society today. There was enthusiastic audience participation in spoken Sanskrit. This ranged from choral singing, led by Malika Das, prayers in praise of Goddess Durga by Professor Shastri Jandhyala, recitation of poetry by Rakesh Sharma, and narration of stories by Professor Savitri De Tourril. For additional information contact "source" above.

Blast at Durga Puja in Assam Leaves Four Dead

Posted on 2002/10/16 8:49:02 ( 992 reads )


GUWAHATI, INDIA, Monday, October 14, 2002: Four people were killed and 18 others injured, some seriously, in two separate attacks on Durga Puja pandals by militants in lower Assam's Bongaigaon district last night. Pandals are temporary festival roadside temples, often quite elaborate. Extremists hurled hand grenades at two puja pandals in Bongaigaon town and nearby Satipur, killing four people. Fourteen of the injured were admitted to local hospitals, while the identity of the extremists has not been ascertained. Last year, also during Durga Puja, militants attacked a puja pandal in Dhubri district exploding a bomb. Three people were killed and seven others injured besides completely destroying the image of the Goddess.

Students Start Eco-Visarjana Campaign

Posted on 2002/10/16 8:48:02 ( 1047 reads )


NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 13, 2002: Students are getting involved in halting the practice of immersing icons made from plaster of paris into the Yamuna River. During the festive season many icons, painted with lead-paint or made with insoluble man-made materials, are immersed in the river adding to the existing pollution. Said Gunjan Doogar of Development Alternatives, "To create awareness about how to celebrate our festivals in an eco friendly way, we have started an eco-Visarjana campaign." The organization is encouraging the use of natural clay and colors made from haldi, chandan, kesar, kumkum and mehendi.

Durban to Host Conference on Lord Hanuman

Posted on 2002/10/16 8:47:02 ( 1068 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, October 13, 2002: Close on the heels of the recently concluded 18th International Ramayan Conference, Durban, South Africa, will host an International Conference on Lord Hanuman, announced Lallan Prasad Vyas, International Ramayan Conference Secretary General. The Divine Life Society, Ramakrishna Mission of South Africa and Vishwa Sahitya Sanskriti Sansthan will jointly organize the three-day International Conference on Hanuman, scheduled to begin on April 18. Giving details of the 18th Ramayana Conference at the University of Durban-Westville Hindu Center, Vyas said this was the first such conference held on the African continent. Vyas, who inaugurated the earlier three-day conference, said it was well attended with delegates from India, US, UK, Mauritius, Thailand, Surinam, Guyana, Japan, France and Sri Lanka. "A high point of the conference was the conferment of the 'International Ramayan Conference Human Solidarity Award' on former South African President Nelson Mandela, sending out a strong message that not only the great anti-apartheid leader had been honored but also the fact that a common thread of unity ran through all religions, races and castes."

Laughter Clubs Popular in India

Posted on 2002/10/16 8:46:02 ( 1014 reads )


BOMBAY, INDIA, October 5, 2002: Starting the day with a good laugh sounds like a wonderful way to begin each day on a positive note. If you feel this way, then perhaps you should look into joining a laughing club. Laughing clubs are very popular in India where more than 80,000 people participate in 800 clubs. In 1995 Doctor Madan Kataria began them because she wanted people to experience "the positive effects of laughter on physical and psychological well being". A 20-minute session at a Bombay laughing club begins with deep breathing exercises followed by a warm-up exercise, called Ho Ha and progresses through the following laughter stages -- the greeting laughter followed by the two meter laughter, the silent laughter, the swing laughter, the ego crushing laughter and ending with the hearty laughter. One of the participants, Prabha Kapur, says "The sessions have made me more sociable and enabled me to let go of emotions like pride and anger. Now, whenever a child at home makes a mistake, I say let it be." Elsewhere in the world, more than 300 laughter clubs have sprung up in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Singapore and the United States. In Vancouver, Canada, Lucinda Flavelle, certified laughter leader, has been successful in using laughter techniques in her work with seniors. Flavelle says, "They thought it was a riot. It's something you can do with people no matter what their physical condition."

Sixties Leader Ram Dass Honored

Posted on 2002/10/16 8:45:02 ( 1157 reads )


RHINEBECK, NEW YORK, October 5, 2002: Ram Dass, recognized as a New Age figurehead, was honored in Upstate New York recently where a library at the Omega Institute, a New Age retreat, was named for him. Ram Dass, formerly known as Richard Alpert, a Harvard professor fired for his experiments with LSD, met his guru in the 1960's in the Himalayan foothills. His guru, Shri Neem Karoli, initiated him as Ram Dass, meaning servant of God. After spending two years with his guru, Ram Dass returned home to America to spread Hindu teachings on compassion, meditation and dharma. He became famous in 1971 with the release of a bestselling book called "Be Here Now." American counterculture was attracted to Ram Dass who explored higher consciousness by meditation and mind-altering drugs. During the next twenty years, Ram Dass became a leader in many New Age communities before finally settling in Northern California. He spearheaded various humanitarian projects such as the Prison Ashram Project and the Hospice Dying Project. In 1997, Ram Dass suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. As a result of the stroke, which Ram Dass termed a spiritual wake-up call from his ascended guru, he has written a new book called "Still Here," a "how-to on soul consciousness in the face of aging and ill health". Kathleen Murphy, who was present at the Omega event, says, "He's helped existence make sense for me. Beauty and love pour out of him and the people associated with him." In an interview Dass says, "Reincarnation applies to all people everywhere, whether they accept if or not. There are people who want to use the name guru for me. When I hear that, I feel they just haven't seen a real one."

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Responds to Critics of Anti-Conversion Ordinance

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:49:02 ( 349 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, October 11, 2002: The anti-conversion ordinance is "not directed against any particular religion, least of all any minority religion," the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, has said. In a statement, she clarified that it was "directed against the use of fraudulent means, allurement and force in enticing individuals into changing their religious denomination against their will." Ms. Jayalalitha reasoned that the ordinance "clearly recognizes and provides for action to be taken to arrest a disturbing trend found in various parts of Tamil Nadu, as reported and documented, where inducements, monetary and material, fraudulent and clandestine, have been adopted by some persons and institutions to convert people to another religion, capitalizing on their poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. The State has a duty cast upon it to make laws to protect its citizens against exploitation by such unscrupulous elements." Even the Supreme Court, in its 1977 ruling in the Stanislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh case, held that the right to propagate one's religion (by advocacy or preaching) did not include the right to convert another. In doing so, the Court upheld a similar ordinance against conversion in Madhya Pradesh. In a report appearing in the Times of India, the Catholic Bishops' Conference denied the church was indulging in forced conversions. Spokesperson Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao said, "Anyone willing to become a Christian has to undergo preparations of six months before he is recommended." However, he also stated that the church gives scholarships and other benefits, and wondered whether these can be considered as inducements for conversion. A report in The Hindu stated that the BJP political party welcomed the ordinance, charging that the involvement of foreigners and foreign funds for conversion had been damaging the fabric of society.

Survey Looks at American Religious Beliefs

Posted on 2002/10/15 8:48:02 ( 1001 reads )


UNITED STATES, October 10, 2002: In a new survey of American religious beliefs, conducted by the conservative Christian Barna Research Group, 44 percent of those surveyed said, "The Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths," while 38 percent of Americans disagreed with that idea. George Barna, president of the Ventura, California, based marketing research company, apparently alarmed at the results, said he thinks the results reflect an increasing inclusivity about faith among many Americans. "Christians have increasingly been adopting spiritual views that come from Islam, Wicca, secular humanism, the Eastern religions and other sources," he said in a statement. "Because we remain a largely Bible illiterate society, few are alarmed or even aware of the slide toward syncretism -- a belief system that blindly combines beliefs from many different faith perspectives."

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