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Nepal's Heritage Sites Still in Ruins a Year after Quake


Posted on 2016/4/20 18:08:47 ( 3124 reads )

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KATHMANDU VALLEY, NEPAL, April 19, 2016 (Nikkei Asian Review): Deftly handling tiny chisels and swabs of cloth, a dozen village women painstakingly chip away the crust and grime of centuries, restoring to life images of Brahma, Vishnu and other Hindu Deities that grace an architectural masterwork.The skilled workers are putting the finishing touches to a shrine at Changu Narayan, a holy site becoming doubly renown: It is Nepal's oldest Hindu temple and the first of numerous artistic treasures to be resurrected following the April 25, 2015 killer earthquake.

One year later, the temples and palaces at the world's largest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites remain heaps of rubble. Other structures that had suffered seismic damage were still being propped up by wooden beams, the victims, experts say, of Nepal's political infighting, bureaucratic lethargy, dearth of resources and possible corruption. This is despite millions of dollars pledged by international donors.

At a magnitude of 7.8, the earthquake decimated or damaged, by the government's estimate, nearly 3,000 religious and culturally significant sites. UNESCO says it will take some $200 million to restore these monuments. "There was a real rush of goodwill after the quake, together with lots of chaos and duplication," said Stefaan Poortman, executive director of the U.S.-based Global Heritage Fund who visited Nepal recently. "Then there was a period of emergency conservation. But now we have a bottleneck in the government, with organizations waiting for restoration projects to be approved."



Indonesian Tamils Celebrate Thaipusam Festival in Islamic Aceh Province


Posted on 2016/4/20 18:08:36 ( 3055 reads )

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BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA, April 17, 2016 (Latin America Herald Tribune): The size of the Hindu community in Indonesia's northwest Aceh province is small, but Sunday devotees made a big impression with their Thaipusam festival. About 500 people from the Tamil community joined Thaipusam celebrations since Friday for the three-day festival, which culminated Sunday with a procession of singing, dancing and praying through the city of Banda Aceh.

For the previous two days, festival goers went to the local Hindu temple where they prayed, enjoyed fellowship, burned incense and made offerings to Hindu Gods. Thaipusam, celebrated by Tamil people in countries of South and Southeast Asia, commemorates the mythical occasion when the Goddess Parvati gave Murugan a spear to defeat the demon Soorapadman.

Until the devastating tsunami of December, 2004, the Hindu community had been larger in Aceh province, but the disaster, which destroyed the local Hindu temple, saw many of them move to Medan to start new lives. Only about 12 Hindu households, comprising less than 100 people, reportedly remain in Banda Aceh, and this weekend's festival was only the third time the community has celebrated Thaipusam since their temple was rebuilt following the 2004 disaster.



How Christianity and Islam Took Over the World, in 90 Seconds


Posted on 2016/4/20 18:08:26 ( 2571 reads )

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UNITED KINGDOM, April 17, 2016 (Independent): This [somewhat inaccurate] video depicts the growth and spread of the world's two largest religions over a span of 2,000 years. Represented in white and green, respectively, Christianity and Islam spring up from obscurity in the Middle East to morph into globe-spanning juggernauts.

It was produced last year by the Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences, a rather grandiosely named Christian ministry based in Tennessee, as an accompaniment to a supposedly historically accurate map that depicts the "Spread of the Gospel." A note on the ministry's website cites biblical scripture, pitching the map as a "beautiful visual reminder that 'the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world ... is bearing fruit and increasing.' "

Real historians will doubtless find plenty to quibble about with the broad sweep of the canvas that this video represents. And, to be sure, this ministry doesn't exactly have an objective approach to the history of Islam. And India, which represents almost a sixth of humanity, is hardly a Christian nation (as it appears in the last frame of the map). Rather it is majority-Hindu and has a far greater number of Muslims than Christians within its borders.

View video at "source".



Hinduism Today Website Fixes Letters to Editor Submission


Posted on 2016/4/20 18:08:16 ( 2309 reads )



KAUAI, HAWAII, April 20, 2016 (HPI): Readers finally pointed out to us that our letters to the editor module on hinduismtoday.com was not working correctly for several weeks. It's been fixed, and please, if you had something to say, but couldn't, just email us directly at letters@hindu.org, or go through the "About Us" tab on the website. We very much enjoy hearing from you!



Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/4/20 18:08:05 ( 2278 reads )

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Those from a religious background who believe that "There is only one life and when it's over, it's over " generally cry and have a very unhappy time over the departure of a loved one. This is very disturbing to the loved one from where they are in the inner world wondering, "Why the grief?" Because they are fine. They are happy, and they are free of a lot of karmas, a lot of worries, a lot of conflict, ready to start a new life. Those with a pure Asian religious background, who understand reincarnation, dharma, karma and the existence of God everywhere, will smile contentedly and say to themselves, "What a wonderful life the departed had!" and be joyous in the new world that the departed loved one is now experiencing.
-- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927-2001), founder of Hinduism Today



How Trust in Interfaith Relations Avoided Riots after the Akshardham Terror Attack in 2002


Posted on 2016/4/18 19:31:00 ( 3621 reads )

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INDIA, April 16, 2016 (Scroll.us, by Sadhu Brahmaviharidas): BAPS was severely tested on 24 September 2002. What would later be classified as one of the worst terrorist attacks on a religious place in modern India engulfed the heart of BAPS. Its renowned Swaminarayan Akshardham, a 23-acre cultural complex dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, was besieged by two terrorists at 4:45 pm. Armed with AK-47 guns and hand grenades, the terrorists randomly and mercilessly killed 31 innocent pilgrims, including a sadhu of BAPS, and seriously wounded 70 others.

The attack was strongly condemned. National and international religious, political, and social leaders expressed their pain and solidarity. However, Pramukh Swami Maharaj stayed calm and composed amid this turmoil. He walked the path of prayer and forgiveness. The attack resulted in perhaps the most widespread nationwide bandh (general strike) independent India has seen. While debates, allegations, and anger mounted, Swamiji guided the crisis towards a peaceful outcome.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj's emotional stability and a larger sense of responsibility to society kept BAPS together. In the days to follow, despite suffering a fever, Swamiji visited the Civil Hospital to comfort the injured and meet the families of the deceased. He sanctified the entire Akshardham complex and organised a public prayer and condolence assembly. All throughout, his actions did not seek sympathy, but ensured stability and spiritual maturity. His message to the people on the same night of the attack was broadcast nationally and internationally. It focused on peace and prayer, wherein he appealed "to all the people of Gujarat and India to maintain peace and unity in the wake of this national tragedy".

Much more at "source" on this insightful account.



Mastery of the Body, Challenge of the Spirit


Posted on 2016/4/18 19:30:50 ( 2934 reads )

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HAVANA, CUBA, November 24, 2016 (14y Medio): In the 90s, when some Cubans chose to flee the country on a raft, Elsa Hermida found that practicing yoga was the best way to overcome the crisis that surrounded her. It was at that time, at the gothic Sacred Heart church in the Havana city center, that she met Professor Eduardo Pimentel, with whom she set a course where meditation and asanas (postures) became inseparable.

In the parish hall, Elsa Hermida and Pimentel, who became her life partner, created a program that until today teaches yoga throughout the country. For a quarter century, this smiling woman of infinite patience has helped hundreds of people begin to practice this unique physical and spiritual discipline. She now runs a community center in her own home, where three times a week the room is filled with people practicing postures and stretching.

Among the results of this constant work was the creation of the Cuban Yoga Association in 1990. Last June, the Association celebrated the World Day of Yoga with two days of classes, workshops and conferences. Today the number of people practicing the discipline in the country has increased not only in the capital city but also in the provinces of Matanzas, Havana, Ciego de Avila and Cienfuegos.



Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/4/18 19:30:40 ( 2808 reads )

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Upon dying, a man is greeted on the other side by Lord Yama, who immediately begins helping him determine his next step in the inner worlds. Lord Yama says, "Your karmic record is not clear to me. Is there something exceptional you have done that I should know about?" The man responded, "I was walking down the street with my wife. Several thugs drove up on mopeds and insulted her. I walked over to the leader, reached up, ripped the earring out of his ear, grabbed him by the throat and told him, 'That's no way to speak to a lady!' " "Impressive, " Yama said. "When did this happen?" The man replied, "Oh, a couple of minutes ago."



Christians and Hindus Portrayed Negatively in Pakistan's School Textbooks


Posted on 2016/4/17 20:33:23 ( 3535 reads )

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PAKISTAN, April 15, 2016 (Christian Daily): Textbooks in Pakistan that are used to teach about 41 million children negatively portray religious minorities such as Christians and Hindus, referring to them as "nefarious, violent, and tyrannical by nature." "Pakistan's public school textbooks contain deeply troubling content that portrays non-Muslim citizens as outsiders, unpatriotic, and inferior; are filled with errors; and present widely-disputed historical 'facts' as settled history," said Robert George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

A study done by the USCIRF discovered that the public school system still observes fundamental intolerance of religious minorities. Moreover, it was found that the textbooks do not indicate the rights of religious minorities and how these minorities positively contributed to Pakistan's development.

The textbooks teach Pakistani children that Christians learned tolerance and kind-heartedness from Muslims and that Hindus have their own conspiracies toward the Muslims. This is alarming because Christian and Hindu children will be exposed to these very pro-Muslim messages. The coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims is not being promoted with what the offensive textbooks are teaching. "These textbooks sadly reflect the alarming state today of religious freedom in Pakistan. A country's education system, including its textbooks, should promote religious tolerance, not close the door to cooperation and coexistence," George said.



Why We Are Teaching Our Children Hate? By Saadia Haq


Posted on 2016/4/17 20:33:13 ( 3451 reads )

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PAKISTAN, April 17, 2016 (Pakistan Christian Post by Saadia Haq): If like me you were born and raised in Pakistan, probably you have attended a local school where we as children learnt at an early age the "conspiracy of the non-believers against Muslims." You may say whatever in its defense, but our reality is troubling. Just think of a 7, or 8, or for that matter an 11-year-old kid being taught glorifying accounts of how conquerors like Muhammad bin Qasim and Mahmood Ghaznavi occupied the subcontinent to free the Muslims under threat from enslavement.

Most sociology books refer to Christians as "violent crusaders" and Hindus as "gangsters" and we are in no doubt that here in Pakistan, our textbooks preach falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. The construction of most non-Muslims is evil and bad. Just think for a moment that you are back in a public school where children of different faith are learning Pakistani history in particular "Ideology of Pakistan". And your teacher reading the passage out loudly, "Who am I? I am a Muslim. I am a Pakistani. I love my country and I love my people."

Within the country, the debate to revamp educational curricula is going on for more than two decades with slow progress. Last year, for the first time in our history, school books for middle and high school students made amendments to their curriculum by describing the positive role religious minorities including Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have had in nation building since 1947. Despite being a small change, it is hailed as a victory by most local human rights defenders and minority campaigners. The new history textbook contains a separate section of chapter VIII titled as "Population, Society and Culture of Pakistan."




Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/4/17 20:33:03 ( 3051 reads )

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To the growing soul, to the spirit within us, may not difficulties, obstacles, attacks be a means of growth, added strength, enlarged experience, training for spiritual victory? The arrangement of things may be that, and not a mere question of the pounds, shillings and pence of a distribution of rewards and retributory misfortunes!
-- Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950), Indian philosopher speaking on karma and disasters



Supreme Court Says Women Cannot be Prevented from Entering Sabarimala Temple


Posted on 2016/4/16 19:27:58 ( 3778 reads )

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NEW DELHI, INDIA, Deccan Chronicle): The Supreme Court on Wednesday reiterated that denial of entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 in Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala based on custom, faith or tradition cannot defeat the constitutional principles of equality. A three-judge bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, V. Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph was hearing a batch of petitions and applications filed by Indian young Lawyers Association and others challenging the ban on entry of women.

Senior counsel Indira Jaising, appearing for women who are in the menstruation cycle argued that such a ban violated their right to practice religion which includes right of entry and worshiping the Lord. Questioning the contention that women are not allowed as Lord Ayyappa is a Naisthik brahmachari (celibate) and presence of women will affect the Lord's penance, she said how women can be made victims if celibacy is to be disturbed.

Justice Misra told the counsel, "They (temple) have developed a custom and tradition being followed to maintain purity of the temple. But the question is whether physiological phenomenon can be a guiding factor to deny entry a class of women within the class of females." Justice Kurian Joseph pointed out to the counsel that the temple is an institution and what they say is the status of the deity as Brahmachari has to be protected.

More at "source".



The Weaves Worth Saving


Posted on 2016/4/16 19:27:47 ( 3707 reads )

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INDIA, April 15, 2016 (Verve Magazine): India is known around the world for the beauty and diversity of its handicrafts and textiles. Designer, craft revivalist and textile conservationist Madhu Jain had been championing this cause for over two decades now. Some indigenous textiles and techniques that she thinks you should take note of are: Nakshi kantha embroidery: "Bangladesh's iconic centuries-old double running stitch (on layers of fabric) is quite different from the kantha embroidery of West Bengal." Jain collaborated with BRAC in Bangladesh, one of the largest NGOs in the world, to revive this exquisite art form.

Muslin: Especially Bangladeshi muslin has today become a staple of the Indian fashion industry. "Muslin (a cotton textile of plain weave) was handwoven in India in the state of Bengal, particularly in what is now known as Bangladesh. Traditionally, it was made from incredibly delicate hand-spun yarn, and required finesse and expertise to weave."

Srikalahasti kalamkari: Srikalahasti kalamkari uses a pen (kalam) to draw and colour motifs freehand. "This kalamkari style is entirely handworked, as opposed to the Machilipatnam kalamkari, which is block-printed using vegetable dyes."

Photos at "source" for this interesting article.



Trinidad Hindus Observe Nau Raatri, Ram Nowni


Posted on 2016/4/16 19:27:37 ( 3715 reads )



PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD, April 14, 2016 (HPI by Paras Ramoutar): For several weeks now, Hindus in Trinidad have joined their counterparts in the Indian diaspora worldwide in the observance of Nau Raatri and Ram Nowi. Observances have been taking place at hundreds of mandirs, other public places and in homes. Devout Hindus have been abstaining from all forms of merriment, alcoholic drinks and meats as they pay serious obeisances to Mother Durga, Mother Lakshmi and Mother Saraswati, and this nine-day affair will culminate on Saturday with the observance of Ram Nowni.

Spiritual Leader of the Edinburgh Hindu Temple, Pundit Ramesh Tiwari, in his nightly homily, has continued to underscore that devotion to the Feminine Aspect of the Supreme Being is the way to go. "Just as your earthly mother responds to your pains, your cries and your problems, likewise Mother Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati would respond if your approach them with benevolence, faith and devotion. Nothing remains impossible to achieve or to realize if your devotion in executed with faith," he said.

Some 24 percent of the population of 1.3 million people are Hindus. Hinduism was brought here between the period 1945 and 1917 when just about 150,000 East Indians were brought here from India, principally Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to work on the restoration of a declining agricultural sector following the freedom of slaves.



Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/4/16 19:27:26 ( 3708 reads )

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The atman in you is that which indwells all things." "Tell me, Yajnavalkya, about this atman that indwells all things." "It is that which transcends hunger and thirst, sorrow and delusion, old age and death."
-- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III, 5A

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