UC Irvine Rejects DCF Gifts
In february, 2016, four gifts of $1.5 million to the University of California Irvine to endow four professorships were withdrawn by the Dharma Civilization Foundation. The chairs were in Indic Civilization and Religious Studies, Sikh Studies, Jain Studies and the “Swami Vivekananda-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Modern India Studies.”
Shortly after the gifts were announced, the History Graduate Student Association at Irvine opposed the chairs. They charged that the donors sought influence in the process of selecting the individuals for the chairs in an effort to forward their own “social, religious and political agendas.”
The gift documents state that the holder of the Indic Civilization and Religious Studies chair “will have a high level of proficiency in innovative, inter-disciplinary research on Indic Religious Studies, … the equivalent of native proficiency in Sanskrit and in at least one contemporary Indian language and deep familiarity with India and Indian tradition, …[and] the ability to forge meaningful and productive partnerships with the Vedic and India heritage community in the Western diaspora.” Contrary to the association’s claim, the actual authority to appoint the chair remained exclusively with the university, and—beyond making suggestions—the donors had no say. It’s not clear, then, how the association felt the donors could influence the selection process beyond the endowment’s stated list of qualifications.
Hindu Marriages Allowed
The sindh province in pakistan has become the first in the largely Muslim country to give Hindus the right to register their marriage.
The bill was passed in February, 2016, by lawmakers in Sindh—home to many of the nations three million Hindus. Hindus in the nation have never had a legal framework to register their unions until now.
Many Hindu couples say that not having their marriage registered has given them logistical problems with basic activities such as opening bank accounts, applying for visas, acquiring national identity cards and getting shares of property because they lacked proof of marriage. It can also be applied retroactively to existing unions.
However, the legislation also contains a controversial clause that allows the marriage to be annulled if any spouse converts.
The National Assembly is considering a wider bill on recognizing Hindu marriage rights, including issues of inheritance, divorce and child maintenance.
A Bridge from India to Japan
A youtube video entitled Indian Deities Worshiped in Japan, posted in January, 2016, explains how Japanese culture and worship originated with India and Hinduism. The 52-minute film is made and narrated by famed photographer and historian Benoy K. Behl.
The documentary cites research showing that Japan’s religious roots come largely from India. The Sanskrit language, first taught in Japan by an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhisena, is written and chanted today in a Japanese style.
The documentary interviews H.E. Mr. Yasukuni Enoli, former ambassador of Japan. He explains, “Japan and India are very closely interconnected. If you go to a Japanese tomb, you may find Siddham (Sanskrit) letters, which few Japanese people can read.” The film praises Japan’s ability to retain some of India’s culture better than India.
Tanya rawal, an indian American professor at the University of California, Riverside, started the hashtag #SareeNotSorry in September, 2015, as a campaign to discourage negative attitudes towards Indian-Americans and bring attention to the positive aspects of Indian culture.
Rawal has been tweeting and instagramming pictures of herself wearing saris in myriad colors and fabrics, sometimes accessorized with belt and boots.
At first, the idea was just a teaching investigation.“My experiment was on what does it mean to be brown and a woman. I was hoping to generate some questions in the class around being a minority in this country,” Rawal told reporters.
“I wanted to perform the intersection of the multiple social identities and political systems that shape my everyday life. And being a brown woman is definitely a complicated position, especially since 9/11, and especially with the increasing hatred towards immigrants in the United States. The Gurdwara shootings in Wisconsin, the police attack on Sureshbhai Patel in Alabama, and the death of Parminder Singh Shergill are just a few recent examples of the violence experienced in Indian-American communities.
“Fashion can politically align you with a place. And right now is not the time for me to politically align with the United States. Now when people look at me they have to see a different culture. A different fashion. A different aesthetic.”
SareeNotSorry has been used over 600,000 unique times since its beginning, as women share their stories and sari photos.
Sydney Siddhanta Course
In february, 2016, the Sivagnana Bodha Course was conducted by Dr. S. P. Sabharathnam Sivacharyar for more than 50 Saiva devotees in Sydney, Australia. The course was highly successful, with 49 students graduating on March 13. Each participant was awarded the title “Sivagnanac Cudar”(The Light of Siva Knowledge).
The course director, Mr. M. Arjunamani, said, “Based on our experience in conducting two courses on Saiva Siddhanta, we understand there is an unquenched thirst among Saivite Hindus of Tamil origin to study and research the primary books through knowledgeable gurus like Dr. S. P. Sabharathnam Sivacharyar.”
Mr. Anbu Jaya, course student, reveals his experience: “I tried to read Saiva Siddhanta several times on my own, and every time I came across terminologies like pasu, pati, maya and pasa, it put me off. A few years back, a quote from a Thiruvasakam hymn, ‘Blessings of God needed to worship Him’ attracted my attention. Do I need God’s blessings to worship Him? When I completed this course, I realized the meaning of these words.”
An american couple, matthew and Jennifer Dickson, have filed a lawsuit against K.P. Yohannan in the district court of Arkansas in February, 2016, alleging that nearly 90% of all US citizens’ donations to his Christian organization’s missionary work in India and other Asian nations is being diverted to his multi-million-dollar personal businesses. Despite repeated and explicit promises made by Gospel for Asia for funds to spread Christianity in India through various charitable projects, such as health care, education and a water ministry called “Jesus wells and water filters,” only a small portion of the money was so used, they claim. A similar petition was filed in 2011 but later dismissed.
The Gospel for Asia website (www.gfa.com) is designed to lure in well-meaning donors to “reach the unreached and transform communities.” In a way, Hindus should be thankful the money isn’t being used for its stated purposes, which onlywould serve to disrupt families and cause community discord in the name of religion.
Settling in Their New Home
Argentina is experiencing a small influx of Indian contract workers, according to a report on the local Spanish-language news site, clarin.com. Hundreds of software engineers, businessmen, doctors, financial and business executives, even chefs, are making a new life in this South American country. The wave of immigration, primarily to Buenos Aires, has brought India’s culture with it.
These young Indians are the face of a drastic change in the economy of India. More young professionals are being produced there than in any other country, including China, where the one-child policy has caused the number of university graduates to lag behind.
The first Indians to arrive in Argentina were Sikhs in the 19th century, brought there to help build a British railroad. Other Indians came in the 1970s who had failed to get into the US, Canada or Britain. Some of those who came promoted yoga and ayurvedic medicine, staffed the kitchens of restaurants and traded in textiles. Little by little, Indian immigrants became part of the local culture.
Starting in 2007, software engineers came into high demand for Argentinian computer companies, so much so that the companies were not even waiting for them to graduate, but plucking those with the best grade-point average right out of college. Seeing an opportunity, multinational companies including Cognizant started to bring skilled workers from India.
For their article, Clarin interviewed Vignesh, a young Indian man now living in Buenos Aires. He reports feeling culture shock, but is doing well living next to a Krishna temple. He wakes up at 3:30 am every day to pray, meditate, sing and perform a small abhishekam at his home shrine.
Although all these young Indian men come from a single country, Clarin points out, they’re not necessarily from the same cultural, linguistic, racial background or jati. Hindi is the most common language, but Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Oriya and Manipuri are also spoken. Mostly, they use English to communicate.
Music, art, clothing, cuisine and religion are all coming over from India and being shared with the people of Argentina—the land of the tango. This social phenomenon that is beginning to emerge is new and exciting, according to Clarin.
“I love this,” Kalyan Shencottah, a software engineer from Switzerland remarks on the music he hears coming from an Indian classical percussionist influenced by the South American style. “It’s a moment to realize that we are truly in a global village. And neither the mountains nor the seas can separate us when we understand each other.”
A liquor ban in the indian state of Bihar, beginning April 1, 2016, has reduced the number of devotees in Hindu temples. A priest in Gaya district’s Bhairav Sthan temple said the flow of visitors had fallen by around 70 percent. “As the tradition goes, the devotees offer alcohol to the Deity,” said the priest referring to a unique practice here, “They pour some of it on the idol and take the rest of it home or distribute it among other devotees.”
In April, 2016, the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra, India, has lifted the centuries-old ban that prohibits women from entering the shrine of Lord Shani Dev. Welcoming the decision, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “discrimination on the basis of caste and gender should be eliminated from the minds of the people keeping with the modern times.”
Having generated vast global attention for the first International Day of Yoga in 2015, the Modi government is pulling out all stops to ensure that the next edition is equally impressive. Coming up in June, 2016, is an even longer (one-hour) yoga protocol, advanced yoga retreats for foreigners in scenic locations in India and a mass yoga demonstration in one of the BJP-ruled states.