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Malaysian Hindus Mark Thaipusam
Posted on 2015/2/5 16:20:00 ( 1011 reads )

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MALAYSIA, February 3, 2015 (Bangkok Post): More than a million Hindus thronged temples throughout Malaysia on Tuesday to celebrate Thaipusam, a colorful annual religious festival. Celebrations in the capital Kuala Lumpur centered, as they have for 125 years, on the spectacular Batu caves complex on the city's outskirts, which many Hindus walked up to ten hours to reach in an annual pilgrimage.

Bearing gifts for the Deity Murugan, countless yellow-robed devotees carried milk pots or coconuts -- the latter of which are smashed as offerings. Others took part in the 9-mile procession of a silver chariot from a temple in the city centre to the caves -- an important religious site for Tamil Hindus -- capped by the final 272-step climb to a temple in the limestone outcropping.

Celebrated also in India, Singapore and other areas with significant Hindu Tamil communities, the festival is marked with particular relish in multi-cultural Malaysia. Many show their fervor by bearing the elaborately decorated frames called Kavadi that can weigh as much as 220 lbs. and are typically affixed to a person's body using sharp metal spikes dug into their flesh in a form of penance. About 1.6 million people were expected to visit the Batu caves on Tuesday, which also draws tens of thousands of tourists.

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2015/2/5 16:18:48 ( 988 reads )

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Whatever defect I have in my sight, in my heart or mind, may God amend! May he, the Protector of the world, bless us!
-- Yajur Veda 36.2

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Dance Card: The Passing of the Master of Kathak, Chitresh Das, Left His Mourning Followers Prepared to Carry On
Posted on 2015/2/1 18:32:51 ( 1620 reads )

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BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA, January 31, 2015 (Times Herald): The unexpected death of 70-year-old Kathak master Chitresh Das on January 4 is a calamity for the world of dance, but it's a disaster for which he prepared his disciples well. A performer of earthy exuberance and exquisite control, he was the driving force in spreading knowledge and appreciation of Kathak, the North Indian classical dance form. Teaching at first from the Ali Akbar College of Music and since 1979 at his own expansive Chhandam School of Kathak, he often put his performing career on the back burner to concentrate on inculcating Kathak's movements, rhythms and epic tales to new generations, artists he assiduously prepared to take his place.

"As a guru, he talked about his death on a regular basis," says Rachna Nivas, a principal dancer in the Chitresh Das Dance Company (CDDC) and director of Das' Chhandam School. "It became quite normalized. Four days before he passed he asked 'What will you do tomorrow if I die today?', which wasn't unusual. What he was doing was constantly reminding us that this is not about receiving this energy from him. It's about invoking and generating that energy ourselves. He was preparing me for this day."

While the school and dance company are still reeling from Das' death, there was never any question about canceling performances. The CDDC presents "Shiva" at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley on March 28-29, continuing the strong ties that Das forged with Cal Performances over the years.

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Newcastle Hindu Healer Babaji Davender Ghai Reignites Funeral Pyre Plans
Posted on 2015/2/1 18:32:45 ( 1675 reads )

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UNITED KINGDOM, February 1, 2015 (Chronicle Live): A Hindu healer who fought to legalize open-air cremations is ready to make them commonplace -- five years after winning a landmark court battle. Babaji Davender Ghai spent years battling the system and almost went bankrupt fighting to make funeral pyres legal.

Mr. Ghai, president of the Newcastle-based Anglo Asian Friendship Society, said: "We, as a society, are offering people the chance to stick to their beliefs and have an open-air cremation; a funeral pyre. "We will do this as a charity, for free. They only need to find the land." "It is a service that Hindus, Sikhs and others deserve to have if they so wish, he said."

Judges said they can be carried out as long as the cremation is conducted in an enclosed building away from the public's gaze and abides by environmental regulations. But shortly after the ruling the vision of Mr. Ghai, now 76, hit a set-back as the trials and tribulations of an arduous battle caused him ill health, resulting in a minor stroke. Speaking from his home in Gosforth, he said: "After we won the fight I got too ill to carry on my work. Now, I have been healed back to full health and am pressing on with what all our hard work earned us the right to do.

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2015/2/1 18:32:35 ( 1606 reads )

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As you pray to God for devotion, so also pray that you may not find fault with anyone.
-- Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)

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Website Addresses Issues with How India is Portrayed in California K-12 Schools
Posted on 2015/1/31 15:42:28 ( 2193 reads )

http://californiahindus.org/">Source

FREMONT, CALIFORNIA, January 31, 2015 (press release): Hinduism as presented in California's current 6th grade textbooks is lacking in accuracy, factual content and sensitivity. The 7th grade books don't mention India despite it producing 1/3rd of the world's gross domestic product during the time period (300 to 1700 ce).

The Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) at California Department of Education (CDE) is presently undergoing a review of the states history and social sciences curriculum framework. This is something that happens just once in 10 years.

On this website, you can download various resources on the issue, as well as sign letters of support for changes in the Framework to improve the presentation of Indian history and Hinduism.

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Have We Reached "Peak Food"? Shortages Loom as Global Production Rates Slow
Posted on 2015/1/31 15:42:22 ( 1611 reads )

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UNITED KINGDOM, January 28, 2015 (Independent): The world has entered an era of "peak food" production with an array of staples from corn and rice to wheat and chicken slowing in growth - with potentially disastrous consequences for feeding the planet. New research finds that the supply of 21 staples, such as eggs, meat, vegetables and soybeans is already beginning to run out of momentum, while the global population continues to soar.

What makes the report particularly alarming is that so many crucial sources of food have peaked in a relatively short period of history, the researchers said. Peak production refers to the point at which the growth in a crop, animal or other food source begins to slow down, rather than the point at which production actually declines. However, it is regarded as a key signal that the momentum is being lost and it is typically only a matter of time before production plateaus and, in some cases, begins to fall - although it is unclear how long the process could take.

"Just nine or 10 plants species feed the world. But we found there's a peak for all these resources. Even renewable resources won't last forever," said Ralf Seppelt, of the Helmholtz Centre. The research, published in the journal Ecology and Society (http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss4/art50/), finds that 16 of the 21 foods examined reached peak production between 1988 and 2008.

More at 'source'.

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2015/1/31 15:42:15 ( 1510 reads )

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For seven lives in seven bodies the grateful will remember friends who relieved their anguish and affliction.
-- Saint Tiruvalluvar's Tirukkural, verse 107

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120-year-old Hindu Temple in Singapore Renovated
Posted on 2015/1/30 15:23:11 ( 1985 reads )

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SINGAPORE, January 25, 2015 (by Melody Zaccheus, NewsAsia): Hunched over trays in the kitchen of a Hindu temple, a platoon of 12 volunteers and four cooks would spend two back-breaking hours on Fridays and Sundays peeling pungent onions. But they will no longer shed tears, as a new machine in the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple's kitchen has cut the time taken to peel 30kg worth of onions to just two minutes. It will also eliminate the need for volunteers for the task. The automated peeler is one of six new pieces of equipment in the 120-year-old temple's new, state-of-the-art $500,000 kitchen.

The others include an automated vegetable cutter, an automated rice washer, and a combi-oven steamer that can produce 250 pieces of idli (steamed cakes) in 10 minutes. Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple's president, Dr R. Theyvendran, said the new kitchen will help speed up cooking operations to serve some 1,200 devotees, including foreign workers, who swing by on weekends for free vegetarian lunches and dinners.Its vice-chairman, Mr Prama Ganeshan, added: "We can now cook more elaborate meals for the elderly and the needy."

The machines were imported from places such as Germany and Taiwan, and a consultant from Gayatri Restaurant here was brought in for the project. The modernized kitchen is believed to be the first such facility in a temple here. The kitchen upgrade is part of a $4.5 million renovation throughout the temple's Ceylon Road premises that started last August. All Hindu temples undergo renovations and repairs every 12 years to re-energize their Deities.

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Use of Critically Endangered Medicinal Plants to be Phased Out
Posted on 2015/1/30 15:23:05 ( 1844 reads )

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INDIA, January 25, 2015 (The Hindu): In a few months, numerous "sought-after" ayurvedic medicines will be taken off the shelves as Karnataka Biodiversity Board (KBB) is phasing out the use of critically endangered medicinal plant species. Of the 425 plant species obtained from pharmaceutical companies, the board has reviewed 40 species that were put on the red list -- that is, endangered or vulnerable species -- of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

And of the 40 species, 20 have been declared as being "unsustainably exploited." The board has suggested phasing them out in a timeframe ranging from six months to two years. For instance, the use of the popular Ashoka tree, which is classified by the IUCN as "vulnerable", has been recommended for being phased out within six months. Nearly 15,337 tonnes of its bark, taken primarily from the Western Ghats, is used annually by pharma companies in the State.

"We will also recommend that companies be encouraged to take up cultivation of these species, instead of using them from the wild," said Mr. Sanjappa, former Director of Botanical Survey of India and a KBB member.


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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2015/1/30 15:22:58 ( 1613 reads )

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It is easy to tame the rogue elephant. It is easy to tie the mouth of a bear. It is easy to mount the back of a lion. It is easy to charm poisonous snakes. It is easy to conquer the celestial and the noncelestial realms. It is easy to trek the worlds invisible. It is easy to command the angelic heavens. It is easy to retain youth eternally. It is easy to enter the body of others. It is easy to walk on water and sit in burning fire. It is easy to attain all of the siddhis (yogic powers). But to remain still is very, very difficult indeed.
-- Tayumanavar (1706-1744), Tamil saint, mystic and poet

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India Census 2011: The Religious Imbalance Worsens
Posted on 2015/1/29 16:58:17 ( 2035 reads )

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INDIA, January 28, 2015 (India Facts by Dr. JK Bajaj): The long-awaited religion data for the Census of 2011 has not been published yet. But it seems that some journalists have been allowed to have a quick look at the figures. Consequently, many stories have appeared in the press; already several articles have been written to reassure the Hindus that the share of Muslims in the population of India has not really changed by too much and there is no serious demographic imbalance developing between different communities in India. But the reported figures seem anything but reassuring.

According to the reports, the Muslim population has grown by 24.4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Average growth of the total population during the decade has been only 17.7 per cent; the growth of Hindus is much lower at only 14.5 per cent. The reports and various articles try to convey that the Muslim growth may be higher compared to the average, yet their rate of growth has declined substantially in comparison to the previous decade, when the Muslim population had grown by 29.50 per cent. But what is critical in maintaining the demographic balance between different communities is not the absolute rate of growth but the gap between their respective growth rates. The Muslim rate of growth in 2011 is nearly 38 per cent above the national average; in 2001, the gap between the growth of Muslims and the national average was somewhat lower at 36.8 per cent. The rate of growth of Hindus, on the other hand, has declined about 20 per cent below the national average. This is a matter of great concern.

A surprising aspect of the data that has been reported is the sharp decline in the share of Hindus in the total population of India. According to these reports, the proportion of Hindus has declined by 2.1 percentage points, from 80.45 per cent in 2001 to 78.35 per cent in 2011. Since the share of Muslims has increased by only 0.8 percentage points, what accounts for the larger decline in the share of Hindus? We do not have the detailed figures yet. But the large decline in the Hindu share is most likely to be associated with a spurt in the number of persons counted under "Other Religions and Persuasions".

Much more at 'source'.

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Upgraded Chariot for Thaipusam
Posted on 2015/1/29 16:58:11 ( 1761 reads )

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MALAYSIA, January 29, 2015 (by Vincent Tan, The Star): In conjunction with the 125th year of celebrating Thaipusam at Batu Caves this year, the silver chariot underwent a US$41,300 upgrade. It will make its maiden journey, called the vellotam from the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 31 at 8pm.

The silver chariot carrying Lord Muruga and His consorts Valli and Theivanai will head back to Batu Caves on Feb 1 at 10pm for the Thaipusam festival. Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam chairman Tan Sri R. Nadarajah said the chariot would stop at several points to receive and offer prayers, and is expected to reach Batu Caves at about 2.30pm on Feb 2.

Four million people are expected to witness the Thaipusam festival at Batu Caves this year, added Nadarajah.

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2015/1/29 16:58:04 ( 1761 reads )

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Discipline your speech. Speak the truth at all costs. Speak little. Speak sweetly. Always utter encouraging words. Never condemn, criticize or discourage. Do not raise your voice and shout at little children or subordinates.
-- Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1887-1963)

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India Census: Hindu Share Dips Below 80%, Muslim Share Grows but Slower
Posted on 2015/1/28 17:06:41 ( 1921 reads )

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NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 24, 2015 (Indian Express): The share of Hindus in India's population has shown the sharpest dip in a decade since Independence and has dropped below 80 per cent. According to figures of the religion census of 2011, yet to be officially released, Hindus comprised 78.35 per cent of the total population of 1.2 billion, compared with 80.45 per cent of the total population in 2001. In absolute terms, however, the Hindu population increased 14.5 per cent from 827 million to 950 million during the period (2001-11).

The 2011 religion census data also shows that the share of Muslims in the population has risen 8/10th of a percent from 13.4 per cent in 2001 to 14.2 per cent with some border states showing a high increase. This decadal increase in share, however, is lower than the 1.7 percentage points increase registered in the previous decade, 1991-2001.

The share of Hindus over the previous five decades -- between 1951 i.e. post-partition and 2001 -- dropped 3.65 percentage points from 84.1 per cent to 80.45 per cent of the total population. Again in absolute terms, the Hindu population more than doubled (172 per cent increase) from 300 million to 830 million during the 50 years till 2001. The drop in share of Hindus, due to a steady dip in the rate of growth of the Hindu population, comes on the back of rising education and income levels of the majority community.

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