By Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

We might say the third of the a-b-c’s of good journalism is choosing insightful journalists. This month, we take great pleasure in introducing to you a remarkable team of seven ladies who are guiding, through their contributions to this magazine, the course of Hinduism in the modern world. That might seem overstated, but think about it. Their in-depth insights into problems and farsighted suggestions for solutions have made Hinduism Today a vital part of the Hindu home. The visionary nature and inherent sensitivity of women, after all, far supercedes that of men. Men explain and women teach. Men preach and women nurture. We call our entire group of journalists the renaissance team, as they monitor and guide the global, eternal renaissance of the world’s oldest faith. Seven women journalists (pictured below) have been with us for many years, and we invite more to join their midst. Of course, there are other women who have been and will continue to be instrumental in the Hindu renaissance in various capacities. In our universe they include Kirin Bedi, prison reformist and author; Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi magazine; Anita Raj, journalist, dancer and model; Brahmacharini Maya Tiwari, writing on sadhana, health and women’s issues, and many others. To anyone we have neglected, pardon us for not mentioning you, but you know who you are and how dearly you hold the vision of Hindu Dharma. We honor you and the many more who will volunteer their efforts in the future. Here is some background on Hinduism Today’s visionary women journalists and some thoughts from them that I think will inspire you.

Freelance journalist Archana Dongre lives with her husband, a computer engineer, in Los Angeles. She has been in the US since the early 1970s. Born in Pune, Maharashtra, schooled in Mumbai and Nagpur, linguistically gifted, she excelled in all other languages and sciences. She earned a degree in education and an M.A. in Sanskrit language and literature. Excelling at broad research pieces, her latest articles In Hinduism Today include Adopting Indian Children (4-94), Tribal Art (2-95), Theosophy (6-95), Home, Sweet Europe (9-95), ISKCON’s Second Generation (3-96), and a Day in the Life of India (2-97). She writes, “My vision for the future of Hinduism includes a better place for the Hindu woman. In the Vedas, women are respected for what they are in their own right; for example, Gargi, Lopamudra and Maitreyi. In today’s society, despite all the advancements that women have made, they are still looked upon as adjuncts, only as somebody’s wife, mother or sister, but not for their own capabilities and talents. Of course, all those relations are important, but a woman’s own worth and talents need to be respected, nurtured and cultivated, with encouragement from their fathers, husbands and, later, sons. I strongly feel that Hinduism, if rightly understood, has never been just a blind faith, but a rich, variegated source of such fascinating, appealing sciences, like jnana marga and bhakti marga. In the truest, literal sense of the word Dharma, which signifies ‘moral sustenance,’ Hinduism has all the potential and power to save humanity. I worked in different fields, took college courses in many diverse subjects, but found that no matter what I did, I came back to writing. I just pray to God to give me strength and long life so I can do something significant for my work and my family so I can make a difference and leave a mark.”

Shikha Malaviya is a freelance writer with a B.A. in mass communications and English creative writing. Formerly a Worldviews editor for the Minnesota Daily, editor of The Hindu Mandir Patrika, and Baathcheet Indo/American journal, she is now pursuing an M.A in liberal studies with an emphasis on literature by Indian women. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and daughter. Among her Hinduism Today contributions: Mixed Marriages (2-94), Wife Abuse (6-94), Women: Home or Career? (9-95), Tantra: Feminizing Divinity (11-95) and A Colorfully Crafted Fair (6-97). Shikha summarizes her vision: “Hinduism Today is a vehicle in forging the traditional with the modern in respect to Hinduism. It is my hope that Hinduism Today will continue its groundbreaking work and give others like myself the opportunity to create a greater dialogue for such a rich and diverse religion.”

Lavina Melwani (website []), who is from New Delhi, writes for publications in the US, India and the Far East. Her family is originally from Sindh. She resides in New York with her husband and two children. Lavina is active in Children’s Hope, a charity to assist children in India. Her sensitive touch features social issues and the arts, including New York Loves Ganesha (11-93), Mixed Marriages (3-94), Afghanistan Hindus (6-94), Famous Vegetarians (1-95), The Grand Dame of Kathak (3-95), Women Film Directors (2-95), The Veggie Revolution (12-95), the UN after 50 years (2-96), Sky Is Not the Limit (4-97), 35mm Mega-Memoir (12-97) and Hear Krishna’s Flute (11-97). In sharing her vision, Lavina tells us, “I have always loved the way Hinduism allows one to have a close, one-on-one relationship with a very personal God. It is a very loving, elastic and all-embracing religion, and I hope in the years to come these will be the features the world will get to see, rather than the fundamentalism or rigidity espoused by a few.”

Prabha Prabhakar Bhardwaj is a free-lance journalist living with her husband in Kenya. She grew up in Jammu, North India. She left a Masters in economics to get married, 16 years later earned a Bachelors Degree in Journalism in Hyderabad, then moved to Kenya to teach journalism at Nairobi University. She specializes in environment and gender issues and has published many books, among them, Body and Mind, Women and Environment, translated into Spanish, French and English. Prabha was a key member in writing two environmental action plans, one for the Kenyan government and one for the UN. Her contributions to Hinduism Today include: Kenya Temple Moves (9-94), Kenya’s Hindu Kids (9-94), Kashmir Pandits (11-94), Hindus Return to Uganda (12-94), The Ganesha Milk Miracle (12-95), Hindus in West Africa and Dressing for Heaven (3-97). In her vision, Prabha Prabhakar is deeply concerned for the future of Hinduism: “I have seen five generations in my own family, from my grandparents to my grand-daughter, and Hinduism is successively getting more diluted with each generation. Hinduism Today has the capability to attract the younger generation in a very pragmatic and rational manner. I plan to reach out to the Hindu youth of today and future generations scattered around the world by coming down to their level. I am researching Hindu rituals from birth to death for a book on that subject to attract the young to our traditional religion. There should also be emphasis on caring for elders so that they are not neglected in their late years, an unfortunate modern trend.”

V.G. Julie Rajan, a medical editor, part-time grad student, and freelance writer living with her husband in Philadelphia, seeks to uplift the status of women and minorities. She was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. She is currently writing and seeking a publisher for a book entitled, Studying Evolution of Hindu Female. Her ambitious HT stories include Pat Robertson’s denouncement of Hinduism as demonic (7-95), Prenatal Sex Determination in India (4-96), Puja in Washington (96-12), Books about Hindu Women (1-97) and Dissolving Boundaries (8-97) and this month’s Alternative Healing. Julie’s vision: “As a writer, I would like to encourage Hindus to return to and appreciate Hinduism in its most pure form, one of tolerance and love, untainted by schisms of caste and sect. Second, I hope to better the lives of women and the minorities, in an attempt to encourage the view that we are all one under God, regardless of gender, creed and socio-economic status. Thirdly, I hope to encourage Westerners to respect the beauty and practicality of Hindu spiritualism and to put to rest historical stereotypical bias.”

Anandhi Ramachandran is a senior dance instructor at Kalakshetra Academy of Arts in Chennai and a free-lance journalist. Her most recent article in Hinduism Today was the feature on Ramana Maharshi in March, 1997. Of her vision of the future, she shares, “Hinduism is complete in these two words, Amrittam gamaya, meaning, ‘Take me towards a deathless fate.’ The most impressive feature of Hinduism is that it has made spiritual awakening simple enough to be understood by anyone, educated, uneducated, adult, children, men, women, rich or poor, white, black or brown. Today we need a uniting energy and guidance to bring together all Hindus. Politics is not the answer. It is more harmful to give the shade of religion to politics, for it divides people and whips up violence. Fanaticism is harmful in everything. The need of the hour is awakening of the spirit. A world leadership is necessary. Hinduism is perhaps the world’s oldest religion. If there is unity among those who live according to dharma, it may be possible to unite the world. The younger generation is looking for meaning in their life. The world has become very materialistic, vengeful and war torn. Sanatana Dharma can change the situation. Dharma is common to all. Hinduism Today is bringing out the truth, and in easy words explaining how to adhere to dharma. From Nepal to Kanyakumari there are many sects of Hindu religion. Hinduism today is bringing them closer together. The most important aspect of education is character building. Hinduism Today can help parents to educate their children.”

Choodie Shivaram, a journalist for 15 years, with a B.A. and a full law degree, resides in Bangalore with her husband and two children. She was a popular journalist in Bangalore before leaving her full-time work to raise her children. Her more than 20 articles in Hinduism Today since 1995 include Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (10-95), Crafts by Women (1-96), Kerala’s Matriachy (2-96), Ganesha Factory (3-96), a Tobaccoless Village (3-96), Tirupati’s Priests (6-96), Madhavacharya’s Birthplace (11-96), Joint Families at Risk (1-97), India’s Beauty Contest (3-97), a Saint’s Self-Willed Death (9-97). Choodie’s vision statement: “My involvement with Hinduism Today opened my eyes to the real side of Hinduism. Besides the content of the magazine, during the course of penning articles, I was compelled to refer to a number of books on varied subjects on Hindu philosophy. I was forced to speak to a number of traditional and modern scholars. I was awe struck by Hinduism’s profundity. I feel sad to think of how I squandered an important part of my early life in ignorance. I realize that a whole lifetime is not sufficient to understand the beauty that is Hinduism. We had and have great scholars who have written brilliantly about the religion and commented copiously on innumerable scriptures. My windows of perception and understanding of the religion have just started unfolding. Today I am extremely proud of being a Hindu, and this pride comes not by vanity or by virtue of my birth as a Hindu, but by the better understanding of the religion and its greatness. With me, my family has come under the influence of the true essence of the religion, and now I am content that I will not fail in my duty of exposing my children to a better understanding of the religion.”

Interestingly enough, while I was working on this column on a Macintosh Powerbook, two ladies of vision who live on our island of Kauai came and sat with me and two swamis at our editing session near the ocean amidst coconut palms. They are Marilyn Wong and Barbara Curl, local participants in a national organization called the Women of Vision, having just finished organizing a major conference on our island where 120 women leaders came to inspire their sisters to teach a spiritual approach to life and collaborate for the benefit of all humanity, including the men! We shared with Marilyn and Barbara this page, knowing they would take strength from the strength of our Hindu women’s team. They did and said they would read it at their gatherings. Was our meeting with these high-minded ladies an accident or a divine coincidence? Or was it, perhaps, women’s intuition?