IN LATE OCTOBER, TWO MEMBERS OF HINDUISM TODAY’S staff attended the International Sandalwood Symposium 2012 at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center. Much to their surprise, they found a global resurgence in sandalwood production underway from India to Australia. The meeting of experts discussed the tree’s history, conservation, commercialization and ethnobotany.

a cut sandalwood logIN THE 1970s INDIA WAS EXPORTING 5,000 tons of sandalwood a year. But over-harvesting has made this tree an endangered species. Today India exports just 400 tons a year. Demand remains so high that the wood costs us$2,000 per kilogram and increases in price 6% a year.

SANDALWOOD HAS BEEN treasured for thousands of years. It is not only one of the world’s oldest known perfumes, it is used in religious rituals and ceremonies. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to treat sunburn, rashes, fevers, sores and more. Recent research in the West is revealing previously unknown medical uses.

THE CLOSE-GRAINED wood is popular for furniture building and carving, and its oil is found in countless consumer products including soaps, cosmetics, candles and incense.

THE VACUUM IN THE WORLD market is inspiring entrepreneurial interest. For example, the Western Australian Sandalwood Plantations company, established in 2001, has planted 10,000 hectares of land in native Australian sandalwood.

Sandalwood: A sadhu in Jaipur, Rajasthan, wears the holy sandalwood paste on his forehead
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ON DECEMBER 11, 2012, after a long struggle, Hinduism and Buddhism were granted official recognition under Italian law. This huge step towards religious freedom and equality throughout the country marks the first time the Italian government has legally acknowledged Eastern religions. Senator Ceccanti stated, “This is an extremely important decision which demonstrates our capacity to expand the system of religious freedom outlined by the Italian Constitution, along with its ability to go beyond the traditional Judeo-Christian context.”

THE DECISION RESULTED FROM an agreement between Parliament, the Italian Hindu Union and the Italy Buddhist Union. The Hindu Union received the government’s official recognition as a religious assembly in 2000 and worked hard ever since to promote religious equality. Its efforts have been a major factor in this successful outcome. Their stated aim is to disseminate the ancient Hindu traditions and promote collaboration among all people who practice the Hindu religion, pursuing common goals while respecting the diversity and freedom of all.

THERE ARE NOW BETWEEN 75,000 and 115,000 Hindus in Italy, including some of Italian descent. Before this agreement, their religion was not legally acknowledged. This meant, for example, that Hindu weddings were not recognized under Italian law. With this new recognition, Hindu weddings are now legally binding. Hindu temples and other places of worship have also gained better legal protection. Italian Hindu groups can now open schools and have access to state funding.

Following the Decision: Svamini Hamsananda, Franco Jayendranatha and Swami Yogananda Giri of the Italian Hindu Union meet with Italian senators Vannino Chiti and Lucio Malan
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MATTEO MECACCI, PRESIDENT of the Committee on Human Rights, Democracy and Humanitarian Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, stated, “This is a historic achievement, after more than 30 years of efforts by Hindu and Buddhist Italians. It is an act of modernity, which expands religious pluralism in our country, an act that I hope will pave the way for the adoption of an expanded law for religious freedom.”




AT THE 2012 INTERNATIONAL Conference on Harappan Archaeology in Chandigarh, organized by the Archeological Survey of India, two ASI archeologists, B. R. Mani and K. N. Dikshit, announced they had evidence pushing back the date of the Indus Valley civilization by 2,000 years. Their conclusions were based on their 2003-2006 excavations of Bhirrana and Kunal in Pakistan and Rakhigarhi and Baror in India.

BHIRRANA IS A SMALL HARAPPAN village in the Indian state of Haryana, 220 kilometers northwest of Delhi. Artifacts recovered there include an advanced form of pottery known as Hakra Ware, with 19 different radiometric dates. Such dating is based on measurement of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes found within the artifacts. Six of the pottery pieces were dated between 7380 and 6201 BCE, while up to now the Harappan relics were dated only back to 3750 BCE. The archeologists reported, “The preliminary results of the data from early sites of the Indo-Pak subcontinent suggest that the Indian civilization emerged in the 8th millennium BCE in the Ghaggar-Hakra and Baluchistan area.”

Mohenjo-daro: Located in the province of Sindh, Pakistan, it is one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization
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AT 1.26 MILLION SQUARE KILOMETERS and five million inhabitants, the ancient Indus Valley (Harappan) civilization was the largest of the ancient world. This recent discovery moving its date back two millennia makes the Harappan the most advanced civilization of early human history. The oldest sites unearthed in West Asia, such as in Jericho, are dated to 9000 BCE, but were far less advanced.




THE PEW RESEARCH CENTER released “The Global Religious Landscape” in December, 2012, giving the size and distribution of the world’s major religions as of 2010 based on a demographic study of more than 230 countries. They found there are approximately 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%).

NINETY-SEVEN PERCENT OF Hindus live in just three countries— India, Mauritius and Nepal—where they also form a majority. By comparison, 87% of Christians live in one of the world’s 157 Christian-majority countries, while 72% of Buddhists live as minorities.

World’s 2nd youngest religion: The median age of all Hindus is 26, younger than the median age of the world’s population of 28
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AT FIRST, MOST SOLDIERS question the benefits meditation might provide them, but the recently implemented Mind Fitness Training (M-Fit) is gaining popularity throughout many military camps and bases. M-Fit is proving itself to be an effective way to decrease fear and stress, alleviate depression and boost the immune system, while enhancing both reaction time and memory among soldiers.

THE PROGRAM WAS DESIGNED by former US Army captain Elizabeth Stanley who, after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, became convinced that meditation could help not only her, but anyone in the military.

THOUGH THERE WAS SKEPTICISM, the program has earned wide popularity. Staff Sgt. Nathan Hampton, who originally thought it would be a waste, reports, “Over time, I felt more relaxed. I slept better. Physically, I noticed I wasn’t tense all the time. It helps you think more clearly and decisively in stressful situations.” Some soldiers reported that just a moment of mental silence is enough to set a positive pattern for their entire day.

THE COURSES, OFFERED TWO TO THREE times a week, consist of various meditation techniques, such as learning to focus on one point in the body or on the floor, quieting the mind and remaining in the moment.

M-Fit: Elizabeth Stanley teaches soldiers to use meditation and relaxation techniques, with an emphasis on living in the moment
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P I O N E E R I N G   V E G E T A R I A N S


MORE THAN 200 YEARS AGO the aptly-named William Cowherd (1763-1816) established a chapel in Salford, England, where he preached the virtues of a vegetarian diet. Cowherd believed that God inhabits every animal and was quoted saying, ”If God had meant us to eat meat, then it would have come to us in edible form, as is the ripened fruit.”

HE AND HIS FOLLOWERS COMPLETELY abstained from eating meat. He told his congregation that it was a sin to eat meat, and that it could cause them to behave aggressively. At the time, most British considered such a diet harmful to one’s health.

IN 1847, HIS FOLLOWERS—known as Cowherdites—formed The Vegetarian Society, which is influential to this day in promoting vegetarianism. Mahatma Gandhi belonged to it in the 1880s while studying for the bar in England and even founded a local chapter.

Meatless ministry: Cowherd was popular for providing free medical services, a library and free vegetable soup to the public
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ON DECEMBER 1, 2012, the 100-year-old Shri Rama Pir Mandir was demolished by a builder who claimed he owned the property on which it had been located, despite a court order postponing the demolition. Several surrounding houses were also destroyed, leaving 40 people homeless.

“THEY DESTROYED OUR MANDIR and humiliated our Gods,” a local resident, Prakash, angrily told The Tribune. A man named Lakshman in India Today said, “They hit me with their guns when I tried to stop them. I told them to kill me instead of destroying our holy place.”

THE PAKISTAN HINDU COUNCIL stated that 25 Hindu families leave for India each week. In response to the demolition, Council Founder Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told India Real Time, “We don’t need to migrate; we need protection for our lives and property in Pakistan.”

Homeless Deities: When the temple’s four Deities were placed safely outside the building complex during the demolition, Their gold jewelry and crowns were stolen
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SRI LA SRI BALAGANGADHARANATHA Swamiji, the 71st pontiff of the Adichunchanagiri Mutt in Nagamangala of Mandya district, attained mahasamadhi on January 13, 2013. Swamiji was 69 and had been suffering from multiple ailments for the last four years. Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar stated, “Swamiji not only built the Adichunchanagiri Mutt but also unified the unorganized Vokkaliga community. Through his hard work, dedication and spiritual power, he brought international recognition to the mutt. He never restricted it to any one community. He believed in oneness and helped all sections of society.” Swamiji was a close friend and supporter of HINDUISM TODAY and our 2007 Hindu of the Year.

A SRINAGAR SIVA TEMPLE CLOSED since 1990 has reopened in Rainawari. Its renovation was sponsored by the Jammu and Kashmir Dharmarth Trust at a cost of us$33,000. It is just one of a hundred temples under the Trust’s care, many of which were damaged during the years of local insurrection in the Kashmi Valley.

A RELIGIOUS ABSTINENCE SURVEY undertaken by the American Sociological Review shows that while all major world religions discourage sex outside of marriage, they are not all equally effective in shaping behavior. The study included data from 31 nations between 2000 and 2008. It showed Hinduism to have the lowest rates of premarital sex (19%), while Judaism (94%) and Christianity (79%) had the highest ratings of premarital sex and extramarital activity.

AN ANCIENT HINDU TEMPLE was recently unearthed in Bali. The local archaeology agency says workers digging a drainage basin in eastern Denpasar, Bali’s capital, first discovered a large stone about three meters underground. The excavation then uncovered a 57 meter foundation which is thought to have been built sometime in the 13th or 15th century. It is possibly the largest ancient temple ever discovered in Bali.

NEW FORTIFICATIONS HAVE BEEN ordered to protect Padmanabhaswamy Temple Vaults in the state of Kerala. This order was given by India’s supreme court in early November, 2012. The temple’s six vaults are filled with priceless valuables. A scientific committee has been appointed to document the extensive treasure.




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