Temples Are Reconsecrated In India and Singapore
Thousands of devotees witnessed the highly anticipated kumbhabhishekam of the ancient Sri Dhandayuthapani Swamy Palani Murugan Temple in Tamil Nadu, India, in early 2023. Usually occurring after renovations every 12 years, this one followed a 17-year gap. The hilltop temple is the third of six Arupadai Veedu temples on a famous pilgrimage circuit extolled by saints and sages through the ages.
Around 9am on January 27, reported The Hindu, chanting of “Arohara” filled the air as priests carried large kumbhas of water and herbs—sanctified during the previous three days—from the yagasala to the main shrine, where they were poured over the gold-plated kalasams atop the towers. Some 6,000 people were allowed atop the hill to witness in person, while devotees below were provided various amenities including LED screens on which the event was livestreamed. About US$2 million had been spent on the renovations.
Weeks later, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, nearly 200 years old, reopened after a year-long, US$2.6 million restoration. The Straits Times reported about 20,000 devotees braved early morning rain on February 13 to throng the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown for its kumbhabhishekam. Amid reverberation of chants, priests climbed the rajagopuram and six vimanams to perform the rites. “The consecration is just as big an affair as it was in my childhood. There is the same intense piousness, and yet much less hassle,” said devotee Sumathi Nadesan.
Electric lamps illuminating the Sri Mariamman Deity have been replaced with traditional oil lamps. The sanctum will now evoke feelings akin to being in a “mother’s womb,” temple chairman S. Lakshmanan said.
Decoding Links with India
Abook titled the afghan connection was published in mid-2022 by Dr. Pramod V. Pathak, a PhD in Vedic literature. As reviewed by The Organizer, this magnum opus, available at amazon.in, draws parallels between India’s ancient Vedic civilization and the Vedic culture prevalent in pre-Islamic Afghanistan.
Pathak shows the striking resemblance between antiquities and symbols of Vedic culture and artifacts obtained from archaeological sites in Afghanistan. Examples include sacred bull seals, fire temples, priest-king heads and altars, and the importation of lapis lazuli from Badakhshan in Afghanistan to India.
He describes the major modern-day Afghan tribes’ connections with Rigvedic tribes dating from the historical Battle of Ten Kings. The word Afghan comes from avagana—meaning isolated or solitary—in the 6th-century text Brihatsamhita.
The fourth chapter details how people of Vamasthana province followed Vedic culture and resisted repeated coersive Islamic conversion attempts. The most popular deity of their pantheon was Imra (identical to the Vedic Indra).
The area eventually fell to the rulers of Kabul, who renamed it Nuristan.
Bali Wows Audience in Paris
The philharmonie de paris is presenting “Dances and Masked Ballet of Bali” through September 18, 2023. Their website says each part is accompanied by a full gamelan—an ensemble of primarily percussive instruments made of bronze and bamboo, also including drums, flutes, strings and voice. This large-scale evening highlights jewels of Balinese dance.
After a musical opening with the gamelan gong kebyar, which involves 25 instrumentalists and is marked by explosive changes in tempo and dynamics, the first hour of the evening presents a series of emblematic Balinese dances.
The second hour begins with a musical piece played on a magnificent gamelan semar pegulingan—the older, sweeter and more reserved ensemble— which is rarely heard nowadays. Then the legong kraton (royal narrative ballet) takes the stage, a stunning peak of classical Balinese dance, finally ending with a spectacular story involving two gamelans, beautiful masks and a choreographed kecak choir. As the evening winds down and the lights become dim, the performers close with the chant “Aum Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Aum.” Watch a recording of this live performance at bit.ly/bali-paris.
From Flowers to Leather?
Meet the startup phool in Kanpur, first in India and one of many companies worldwide researching leather alternatives made from bio-materials rather than plastic. A BBC profile shares how Phool co-founder Ankit Agarwal started with upcycling flowers into incense sticks after noticing massive amounts of temple waste flowers being dumped into rivers, where they leach out harmful chemicals from pesticides. (BBC did not mention any pesticide residue in the incense.)
In 2018, Phool scientists noticed a whitish layer on a pile of waste flowers on the factory floor. Experiments with feeding the flowers to microorganisms sourced from the jungle near Kanpur eventually resulted in a fabric-like, microbial material resembling the feel of leather. They call it “Fleather.” The substance is entirely biodegradable, whereas the competition still incorporates some polymers.
Phool has made several prototype products—wallets, sling bags, sandals and trainers. The research goal now is to increase fiber density for long-term durability and the necessary tensile strength for items like belts.
British Columbia Rentals Allow Vegetarian-Only Ads
The practice of renting to vegetarian tenants is often driven by the deep cultural and religious tenet of ahimsa, not just dietary preferences. An article at BIV.com says that across B.C. 83,860 identify as Buddhists and 81,320 as Hindus. Landlords from these religions often look for vegetarian tenants to keep their environment meat-free while they rent their homes.
For renters, protection against discrimination is addressed in Section 10 of the B.C. Human Rights Code. When shown a Craigslist ad calling for “vegetarians only,” lawyer Laura Track said, “I don’t think this ad would violate the Human Rights Code, as it doesn’t appear to engage a protected characteristic.”
Iraivan Temple in Hawaii Installs Crystal Sivalinga
At the kauai home of hinduism Today, the naturally formed 700-pound crystal Siva-linga had “temporarily” resided in Kadavul Temple since August 1987, awaiting its move to the all-granite Iraivan Temple. Over thirty years passed as the temple was arduously hand carved in Bengaluru, India, and assembled on our Garden Island.
Our architect, Selvanathan Sthapati, indicated that with the completion of the structure and the installation of the 11,000-pound, five-metal pedestal in the inner sanctum, it was time to install the Sivalinga. Based on that instruction from our master builder and guidance from India’s Sivacharya priests, the auspicious dates of March 21-26, 2023 were set—but not publicized, due to lack of infrastructure for a large crowd. The six days of rituals, conducted by ten Adi Saiva priests, were livestreamed on our Kauai’s Hindu Monastery YouTube channel so all could watch. Subsequently, 45 days of mandala pujas to stabilize the new vibration were performed by two of the priests. One Adi Saiva priest remains here to perform the daily nitya pujas.
Attendance must still be strictly limited until we have built new parking and safe access facilities starting at our rudraksha tree grove. When all is ready, the Swarna Bandhana Maha Kumbabhishekam—the grand opening—will welcome larger numbers of pilgrims to Siva’s green jungle abode.
With lock-down restrictions finally lifted in Malaysia, an estimated 1.5 million-plus devotees attended Thaipusam festival celebrations in Penang in February 2023, according to New Straits Times. This was many more than usual, due to not being allowed to fulfill their penance vows in recent years. This also meant big business for kavadi makers, who had suffered for the past two years.
Fifty-eight men were initiated into the BAPS Swaminarayan monastic order in January 2023 by Mahant Swami Maharaj, as part of the late Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s massive, month-long birth centenary celebrations in Gujarat, attended by more than 12 million. Face2News spoke with new monk Gunvaibhav Swami who effused, “It is their [gurus’] selfless life that inspires me to take this path of renunciation, service and devotion.”
Tragedy struck the annual Maha Shivaratri walking pilgrimage to Grand Bassin lake in central Mauritius in February 2023 when a 26-foot high kanwar parade float returning home caught fire after hitting a high-voltage line. Le Matinal reported that the fire then caused a battery to explode. About fifteen people were injured and at least two did not survive. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth canceled a planned trip to Ethiopia.
Fertility rates in India are falling steeply across all religious groups, as reported by Statista, even as India has now become the most populous nation in the world. India is following China in reversing population growth; the number of children born per woman in India had dropped to 2.0 by 2019. To maintain a stable population in any given region, not exceeding 2.1 births per woman is necessary.