IN EARLY APRIL THE MALABAR REGION of northern Kerala celebrated its musical and colorful Pooram festivals. The oldest and most elaborate of these takes place at Vadakkumnathan temple in Thrissur. For seven days the surrounding buildings are decorated with colorful lights, and people celebrate with great fanfare amid the summer heat.
Elephants on parade: During the crowded festival, decorated elephants follow behind the rows of Panchavadyam musicians
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This year’s event included fireworks, processions of elephants, and the festival’s unique rhythmic Panchavadyam (orchestra of five instruments), which parades some 250 musicians among the tens of thousands of worshipers.
The event was conceived by Raja Rama Varma, Maharaja of Cochin from 1790 to 1805, who unified the ten temples around Vadakkunnathan and organized a mass celebration. Today, over 200 years later, the festival continues to grow in popularity.
AMERICAN DAIRY FARMERS now have new options for staffing their daily operations. According to a recent article in the New York Times, some farmers in the northeastern United States have invested in robots for their daily feeding and milking needs. The robots are the work of Lely, a European company which specializes in the creation of intelligent farm equipment—everything from feed robots to wind turbines.
For the dairy farmer, the most important of the company’s products is the laser-guided milking machine—a high-tech system with some nice benefits for the cows themselves. Traditionally dairy cows are milked twice a day; but with the robot present, the cows can simply walk up of their own accord and be milked whenever desired. Delayed milking can be painful for a cow, but this way milking is always on their own schedule. One farmer noted it just took a few days for the cows to figure it out, and his cows have happily started milking themselves—six times a day.
The future is now.
The new farmhand: This robot uses laser guided precision to milk the cow without a single human present
ACCORDING TO A RECENT ARTICLE IN The Japan Times, yoga’s popularity is on the rise in the country. Yoga practitioners are experiencing a process of integration. Those who were previously only interested in yoga’s health aspects are becoming more involved in its spiritual side, while those of a more spiritual inclination are becoming more appreciative of its physical benefits.
The result is a rapid growth of the practice among urban Japanese, in particular. One experienced yoga instructor, Mamoru Aizawa, stated, “This is an awakening. Lots of people practice ashtanga yoga early in the morning before going to work.”
As just one example of this trend, the 2013 Yogafest Yokohama, held in late September, is said to have been one of the largest yoga gatherings in Asia. This is good news for a country that sees as many as 150 sudden deaths a year from work-induced stress.
Land of the rising sun-salutation: A large group of Japanese yoga enthusiasts do yoga outside in Yokohama
A RECENT SURVEY CONDUCTED by the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM) has disclosed some disturbing information about Hindu temples in Pakistan, according to an article in the The Express Tribune. The survey looked at 428 sites in the country and concluded that only 20 of these sites are still functioning as Hindu places of worship. Since 1990 the other 408 Hindu temples and shrines have been converted into toy stores, restaurants, government offices, schools and more. Most of these sites have been leased for commercial and residential purposes by Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board, which now controls about 135,000 acres of land owned by over four million Hindus.
PHRM chairman Haroon Sarab Diyal shared some examples of temples being wrongfully repurposed. The Kali Bari Temple in Dera Ismail Khan has been rented out to a Muslim group. Another Hindu temple in the district of Bannu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has been turned into a candy shop. The Siva temple in Kohat has been converted into a government primary school, and another Hindu temple in Punjab was demolished and reconstructed as a community center.
Most Pakistani Hindus have been driven from their country by religious persecution or killed outright. Those who remain face increasing odds.
Fading temples: A Hindu temple in Taxila, near Rawalpindi, Pakistan
THE SACRED TRADITION OF RITUAL DANCE IN TEMPLES has seen a revival in recent decades. Chidambaram’s Natyanjali festival of dance, started in 1981, draws over 1,000 dancers and artists from throughout India and around the world to participate in the event. Lasting from late March to early April, the festival includes classical forms of the Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Katthak, Odissi, Sattriya, Manipuri, and Chau Koodiyattam disciplines.
Worship through dance: A group of dancers performing at the Natyanjali Festival in Chidambaram
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For thousands of years worshipful dance was considered one of the most sacred offerings in many temples throughout India; but after Britain gained control of the country, temple dancing was banned in many states. Despite that setback, many forms of sacred dance persisted, some being passed down through families and individual gurus. Thanks to festivals such as Natyanjali, this intensely personal form of worship is regaining popularity in India.
DURING THE YEAR 2013 THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA experienced one of the worst droughts in recorded history. California grows nearly 50 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables, so Americans are beginning to pay more attention to the amount of water it takes to grow various types of food.
A recent article in the New York Times highlights the “water footprint” of foods. For instance, it takes 3.3 gallons of water to grow a single tomato. While one ton of vegetables requires about 85,000 gallons of water, one ton of beef requires well over 4,000,000 gallons!
California devotes 80 percent of its water to agriculture, so it’s important to assess just how efficiently that water is being used.
Dusty and dry: A ranch in California suffers months without rainfall
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The article points out an easy, accessible, inexpensive and highly effective action most citizens can take to help alleviate California’s recurrent water shortages (and the resultant high food prices): decreasing or completely eliminating the meat in one’s diet can reduce one’s personal water footprint by almost 60 percent.
ASEMINAR HELD IN NEW DELHI last September presented information on more than a century’s worth of archeological findings, shedding light on the profound connection created between India and China by the ancient trade routes known collectively as the Silk Road. Entitled “Sanskrit and the Silk Road,” the highly informative collection of research, organized by the Institute of Indo-Asian Studies and Bhavan’s Center of Indology, offered a colorful look at the translation and transference of both Hindu and Buddhist teachings over the Silk Road and within the many monasteries and settlements along the way.
The Diamond Sutra: The oldest-dated book in the world is a Chinese translation of the Sanskrit Ajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra, a Buddhist dialogue about the nature of perception
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Since the times of the Indus Valley, the trade routes in Central Asia flourished facilitating the era’s greatest exchange of goods, culture and knowledge. These routes stretched from the borders of Rome through the hills of Northern India and Central Asia and on to the great empires of China. The traffic involved not only an exchange of international commodities but an intermingling of the cultures and religious heritages of distant peoples.
Monasteries in particular documented the great philosophical connections between India and China. Monks traveling between or residing in these monasteries acted as translators and purveyors of texts from India into the far East and elsewhere. Sanskrit texts were translated into many other languages, including Manchurian, Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese. Today some of the oldest printed items in the world are in Sanskrit, and were found not in India, but in China via this cultural exchange.
For many years Hindu and Buddhist monasteries throughout areas of Central Asia remained—quite literally—buried under the sands of time. Expeditions to these ancient places over the last century have unearthed important texts and artifacts which have helped to reconstruct the missing history of this area and its great religions.
The Gayatri mantra: This ancient scroll translates the Gayatri mantra into four different languages
IN LATE JANUARY, 2014, DOZENS
of residents in Kesiman village gathered at the Luhur Dalem Mutering Jagat Temple in Bali, for the planting of some 1,500 trees. According to an article by The Jakarta Post, the purpose was twofold: to conserve water in this environmentally sensitive area and to beautify the culturally important temple and its surroundings.
ON APRIL 10, 2014, UNITED
states Congressman Mike Honda introduced the Freedom of Faith Act, which if successful would permanently allow for religious workers to obtain visas. “Unlike other faiths, Hindus lack facilities in the United States to train priests and religious workers here,” said Harsh Voruganti, HAF’s Associate Director of Public Policy. “We depend heavily upon the Religious Worker Visa to effectively staff our temples and religious institutions.”
IN MARCH, 2014, HINDUS OF THE
South American country of Guyana celebrated Holi with great fanfare. Holi is a national holiday in Guyana, since the country’s 270,000 Hindus make up one third of the total population. With the joyful flurry of colored powders, the general merriment and the fervent display of devotion for Lord Siva and His triumph over darkness, Hindus from any country in the world would have felt completely at home participating in the festival.
A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS MONITORING
a telescope at the South Pole have found evidence that may help prove a theory by Stanford physicist Andrei Linde. Linde’s 1986 “eternal chaotic inflation” theory suggests that the universe was born in the merest fraction of a second, expanding exponentially from a size smaller than a proton. According to findings released in March, the South Pole telescope has detected gravitational waves thought to be the first tremors of the moment the Universe began, when it was just a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old.
IN A RECENT CEREMONY
at Gatterick Garrison Army base in the UK, a Siva Lingam was installed at the base’s recently constructed temple annex. Carved in India, the Lingam will now be available not only to soldiers on the base but also to the area’s wider Hindu community. Hindus from across Yorkshire visited to take part in the event.