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India's Lost Africans
Posted on 2000/11/25 22:49:02 ( 894 reads )


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LONDON, ENGLAND: Long before the first slave ships started supplying labor to the cotton plantations of the American south, and many centuries before the first Africans were brought ashore to the sugar estates of Brazil and the Caribbean, Africans were being sold as slave-soldiers for India's princely states. Their descendants are the least visible part of the huge African diaspora. But today in India, lost among the mosaic of different cultures and communities, are tens of thousands of people of African descent. They are known as Sidis. "The Sidis are descendants of African slaves, sailors and servants, and merchants who remained in India after arriving through the sea trade with East Africa and the Gulf," says Amy Catlin of the University of California, who is making a special study of Sidi culture. "That was a process which began in the 12th century or before, and lasted until the late 19th century." But in the western Indian state of Gujarat -- where most Sidis live -- the community has lost touch with its roots. The village of Jambur is one of two exclusively Sidi settlements and is miserably poor. The only remnant retained of their African lineage is their music and dance. This is what professor Catlin, an ethno-musicologist, hopes to use to fill in the story of the Sidis. "In Gujarat, affinities with African music include certain musical instruments and their names," she says, "and also the performance of an African-derived musical genre called "goma." One legend has it that the Sidis of inland Gujarat originally came from Kano in northern Nigeria, and ended up in India after undertaking a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Music may be the only key that can unlock their past. The BBC journalist, Andrew Whitehead (world.today@bbc.co.uk), is seeking anyone with additional information on these people.




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No Comparative Religion for Memphis
Posted on 2000/11/25 22:48:02 ( 959 reads )


Source: Associated Press, November 24, 2000





MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, USA: A proposed comparative religion course for high school students has prompted debate in Memphis. The Shelby County School Board first tried to offer Bible history classes but was stopped by the state because the courses were found to focus too heavily on Protestants. It was then proposed that the board adopt a comparative religion course, but the school board said no. Board member Wyatt Bunker was the most vocal opponent of the comparative religion course, calling it "just altogether a bad idea to teach Hinduism, Buddhism and voodoo and whatever else in our schools.'' He said he took a comparative religion class in college and is convinced that such courses are not suitable for younger, impressionable children. "If they don't want God in our schools, then we're not going to have Gandhi in our schools,'' he said. Some citizens took exception to Bunker's comments. Cliff Heegel, a Buddhist minister who leads a small local congregation, said: "It seems to me the school board is trying to impose religious values on the curriculum, especially since they rejected the broad-based world religion course that is taught in almost every university.''




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Government Nod For Divorce Law Change Upsets Christians
Posted on 2000/11/25 22:47:02 ( 976 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA: The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to introduce the Indian Divorce (Amendment) Bill, 2000, ostensibly to remove discrepancies in the grounds for Christian men and women to seek divorce. Christian organizations have criticized the move, saying they were not consulted. The bill intends to amend the Indian Divorce Act, of 1869, since its provisions are outdated and discriminatory. The present bill seeks to amend particularly Section 10 of the Act, under which a Christian man seeking dissolution of marriage only needs to prove adultery by his wife. If a Christian wife wanted dissolution of the marriage, she is required to prove some other marital offense in addition to adultery to be able to obtain divorce. Catholic Bishops Conference of India spokesperson Dominic Emmanuel questioned how the could government proceed on this crucial issue without consulting the Catholic Church, which represents 67 per cent of Indian Christians. He did say the Catholics encourage removal of gender bias. India has separate laws for each religious community, governing "personal" matters such as marriage and divorce. This is unlike other countries, such as the United States, where everyone is subject to one common civil code.




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Mount Everest Moving to China
Posted on 2000/11/25 22:46:02 ( 1004 reads )


Source: India Today News Service, November 17, 2000





BEIJING, CHINA: According to a survey done by Chinese scientists, the world's tallest peak, Mt. Everest, is moving into China at a speed of six to seven centimeters per year from its position on the Nepal-China border. This is nothing new, of course, as the entire India subcontinent--once separated from Asia by ocean--first crashed into China 50 million years ago. These researchers also found that the snow cover on the top of the Mt. Everest has also been descending over the past three decades and added that "it had a connection with global warming."




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Toilet Seat Company Apologizes to Hindus
Posted on 2000/11/20 22:49:02 ( 997 reads )


Source: Hinduism Today, November 21, 2000





SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: Lamar Van Dyke, one of two partners of Sittin' Pretty Designs, offered an unconditional apology to the Hindu community for placing images of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali on toilet seats. The company said they would withdraw the items from sale. In her apology for offending the sensibilities of the community, Lamar said, "My partner and I meant no harm or denigration by our product. The toilet seats were not at all an attempt to insult our beloved Goddess Kali or Lord Ganesha, both of Whom we both feel personally close to. We understand now that to a traditional Hindu, a bathroom simply doesn't constitute an area of the house to display sacred images. Here in Seattle, we found many of our friends actually make their bathrooms quite beautiful, and an elaborate, decorative toilet seat is part of it. For them, it serves somewhat as the shrine room of a traditional Hindu home. Ours is a small company, just run out of our homes. The seats are made lovingly, with our own hands. We feel that it is important to put strong female images out there in the universe to attempt to counteract the negativity that is and has been directed towards women throughout the millennia. Goddess Kali is one of the strongest female images to have survived the deliberate distortion that the patriarchy has placed upon all of our history. The only surviving female figure of the Christian version is the "virgin" Mary who is always depicted with her eyes downcast and her hands folded. Even though she is always shown in this submissive posture, we have put her on a seat as well, in the familiar form of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In doing so, we show no disrespect to Christians. We meant neither harm nor insult, and apologize to the Hindus of the world for unintentionally upsetting them."




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Half of Indian Women Say Wife Beating Justified
Posted on 2000/11/20 22:48:02 ( 1299 reads )


Source: Reuters, November 17, 2000





NEW DELHI, INDIA: More than half of Indian women believe that wife-beating can be justified under certain circumstances, a survey on population and health published this week said. The survey of 90,000 women across the country -- conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences at the initiative of the Health Ministry -- found that about 56 percent endorsed wife-beating on at least one of six grounds. Women's reluctance to report domestic violence included possibly the "culture of silence," fear and different perceptions among women about what constitutes violence. Forty percent of women agreed that wife-beating was justified for neglecting the house or children, and 37 percent felt that going out without informing their husbands constituted a valid reason. Disrespect to in-laws, suspicion of infidelity, inadequate dowry and improper cooking were also cited as acceptable grounds. The National Family Health Survey found that 20 percent of women had been physically mistreated since the age of 15, most commonly by the husband. The survey found that there was a divergence of views according to levels of education and between urban and rural women.




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Temple Preparations Proceed at Ayodhya
Posted on 2000/11/20 22:47:02 ( 855 reads )


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AYODHYA, INDIA: After lying dormant for several years, the temple town of Ayodhya in India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh, is once again simmering with tension. Eight years ago, Hindu zealots tore down the ancient Babri mosque in Ayodhya, which stands upon the birthplace of Lord Rama. Bloody Hindu-Muslim riots followed. Icons of Lord Rama and Sita were installed at the site, but plans by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to build a grand temple were put on hold after a court order barred any kind of construction. Even after the BJP, the political affiliate of the VHP, assumed the reins of the national government three years ago, Hindu organizations observed restraint because of a commitment by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to his allies in the coalition government that the temple would not be constructed until the courts ruled on the dispute. The VHP has employed over a hundred workers - including 60 artisans, who are busy making pillars, walls and statues of Gods and Goddesses for the temple. "We have been told to build the temple on a war footing," said the workshop supervisor, a retired military engineer. He said that with the help of a second and third workshop the first and second floors of the multistory temple should be completed within a few months. The temple could then be assembled in short order, once permission is given to proceed.




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London Sees First-ever Private Collection of Pre-Harappa Treasures
Posted on 2000/11/20 22:46:02 ( 944 reads )


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LONDON, ENGLAND: A rare collection or pre-Harappan ceramics and sculptures being exhibited for the first time in London have been described by dealers as the oldest high quality treasures of their kind anywhere in the world. This collection of pots, figurines and tablets is from a site in the upper Indus, near Mehrgarh in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Their significance is the evidence they show of a pre-Harappan and pre-Mohenjodaro civilization that existed along the middle reaches of the Indus, dating back to 7,000 BCE. The article in the "Daily Pioneer" does not explain how a private dealer came into possession of these artifacts. One of dealer Gotz's prized exhibits is a Mehrgarh bull with a sheep's head and painted in orange vegetable dye. But his "piece de resistance" is a broken clay pot, circa 3,800 BCE, that depicts "pipal" tree leaves, fish and the earliest known representation of the mythical griffon, a winged horse, that reappears a thousand years later in the Mesopotamian valleys of ancient Iraq. Gotz's asking price for the pot is $95,000.




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Monkeys Judging Morality
Posted on 2000/11/20 22:45:02 ( 903 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times, November 11, 2000





PATNA, INDIA: In the state capital of Patna, India around the Sahara Indian building on Boring Road, monkeys are accosting smokers who venture into their territory. They have become the moral judge and jury of anyone caught smoking. After getting a few quick slaps, smokers quickly relinquish their fares to the persistent band of 14 monkeys. Office workers in the vicinity are terrified of the antics, as the monkeys often enter offices, sit about the room and do whatever they please. Zookeepers, upon request, may take the monkeys away, but for now they are providing live entertainment.




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Mumbai Government Ends Reign of Prince of Wales
Posted on 2000/11/16 22:49:02 ( 909 reads )


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MUMBAI, INDIA: Call it the latest victory for Chatrapati Shivaji. The Maharashtra state government decided Wednesday to rename Mumbai's Prince of Wales museum after the legendary Indian warrior and king. Shivaji already reconquered the main railway terminal, Victoria Station, and the city's name itself was returned to "Mumbai" from the Anglicized "Bombay." There are complaints about the movement, but it has been common practice in many countries to rid themselves of invader-imposed names. The museum was completed in 1914 to commemorate the Prince of Wales' 1905 visit to Bombay. It served first as a hospital due to the on-going World War I, and again during World War II. It now houses an outstanding collection of miniature paintings and other rare exhibits.




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Ancient Disciplines Make For Modern Careers
Posted on 2000/11/16 22:48:02 ( 979 reads )


Source: The Indian Express, November 17, 2000





VADODARA, INDIA: Increasing popularity of the ancient Indian disciplines like vastushastra (architecture), ankjyotish (numerology), hastrekha (palmistry) and ayurveda (medicine) have come to the rescue of Baroda Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya where enrollments had declined over the past decades. As a result of offering these courses, the college's enrollment has begun to increase. The very name, Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, creates the impression of a college where only Sanskrit is taught, but the new courses offered cleared up the misconception. The college now plans to start other disciplines like vyavharic ayurveda (practical ayurveda), samudrik shastra (body reading), karmakanda (religious rituals), ankjyotish (numerology) and conversational Sanskrit. Principal H.M. Pandey pointed out that people were going back to learning what was written in ancient scriptures. "Most of the students join these courses as there is demand for experts in these fields, both within the country and abroad,'' he said. Graduates are given the title of shastri. According to the teachers some who have taken these courses and graduated are now working in foreign countries. Others have been busy with assignments in the city or their hometowns. If these claims are anything to go by, the students are doing fairly well. And the ancient Hindu arts are being preserved in the process.




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American missionaries asked to leave the country before Sunday
Posted on 2000/11/16 22:47:02 ( 860 reads )


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MADURAI, INDIA: The Indian government has requested ten American missionaries, now staying on Rameswaram Island at the tip of South India, to leave the country by November 19. The ministry said they had not renewed their visas as they are required to do every six months. The American evangelists were working for the Meyyampul church in Rameswaram. India has not issued visas for foreign missionaries for quite some time, but allowed those in the country--some for 40 years or more--to stay on. However, those who stay must be diligent in renewals.




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Mata Amritanandamayi - Healing With A Hug
Posted on 2000/11/15 22:49:02 ( 1025 reads )


Source: The Press Democrat, November 15, 2000





SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA: In the Marin Civic Center exhibition hall in San Rafael, the seekers and devotees sat on the floor before Mata Amritanandamayi, or Ammachi, a Hindu spiritual leader and humanitarian from India, waiting for her hug of benevolence. The report in the local Press Democrat treated the Hindu leader with great respect. It went on to say that her followers believe her hugs relieve suffering. Ammachi, whose full name means Mother of Immortal Bliss, was born in South India in 1953. Hundreds gathered to receive a gentle embrace. Those who sought a hug obtained a special token with a number - one that would determine when they took their place before her. By 1 p.m. volunteers reported giving out 750 tokens. Many of the hugs lasted more than 30 seconds. Afterward Ammachi gave each person flower petals and a "Hershey's Kiss" piece of candy. Visitors could learn about her "Mother's Kitchen" program, serving vegetarian meals to the homeless in Oakland and eight other U.S. cities. Brochures told of the hospital, orphanage and an engineering college she operates in India. Colette van Praag of Glen Ellen described her previous hugs with the spiritual leader as "a melting of the heart." Ammachi was a featured speaker at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held at the UN in August. She was one of only a handful of women religious leaders at the male-dominated event. In Zurich, a reporter once asked who it was that hugged her. "The entire creation hugs me," Ammachi replied.




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Fiji Court Reinstates Constitution
Posted on 2000/11/15 22:48:02 ( 922 reads )


Source: The Fiji Sun, November 16, 2000





SUVA, FIJI: Justice Anthony Gates of the High Court of Fiji ruled today that the 1997 constitution remained valid and ordered the president to summon the Parliament which existed prior to the failed coup of May 19, 2000. The case is going immediately to the Appeals Court, which will have the final say. The case was brought by Mr. Anu Patel, an indigent farmer, who claimed he had been adversely impacted by the coup and suspension of the constitution.




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Melbourne Priest on Trial for Arson
Posted on 2000/11/15 22:47:02 ( 869 reads )


Source: Australian Associated Press, November 14, 2000





MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Subramaniya Punutharajakurukkal, a priest originally from Sri Lanka, is standing trial in Melbourne, for arson and two charges of endangering life. He is charged with setting two mysterious fires at the Hindu temple in The Basin, east of Melbourne on the night of March 11, 1999. The Crown Prosecutor, Geoff Horgan, told the jury the priest used lawnmower fuel to start the fires, which included his residence beside the temple where his wife and child were sleeping. Horgan said the man wanted to stay in Australia permanently and to remain priest at the temple. But, he said, "historically there had been disharmony within the managerial affairs of the temple." The priest has pleaded not guilty.




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