ON A RECENT TWO-DAY VISIT, to New Delhi in early September, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott returned two 900-year-old murtis of Lord Nataraja and Ardhanarishvara to the Indian government. The Nataraja—worth well over five million dollars—was taken from a temple in the village of Sripuranthan in Tamil Nadu, in blatant violation of India’s cultural property laws. The statue was sold in February 2008 to the National Gallery of Australia through an Indian-born antiquities dealer, who has since been arrested and accused of organizing a sizable smuggling ring. The Ardhanarishvara murti was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004 for approximately $280,979.
Welcomed home: Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, returns the two stolen statues to India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi
The Nataraja is said to have eventually returned back to the Sripuranthan temple, receiving a joyful “welcome home” from devotees. Prateep Philip, additional director general of police, said this prompt return by Australia will act as a deterrent to future global traffickers, stating: “It is an important case, which has global ramifications.” He may be right. Just a month later, a bronze Ganesha was returned to India, having been linked to the same dealer and previously displayed at the Toledo Museum of Art.
IN AUGUST OVER 2000 people from across Southern Europe traveled to Gitananda Ashram in northern Italy to celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi. The ashram, which was founded in 1984, has been holding this public event each year. Following tradition, the day began with special puja to Lord Ganesha in the temple and ended with the parading of the Deity.
Fanfare: Devotees parade Ganesha around the temple complex
Presentations were made by the Consul General of India and Italy’s Indian ambassador. Monastics told La Stampa, “Our celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi is based in our prayers for world peace. We wish it for everyone, without distinction, and we hope that our request will be heard.”
IT’S NO SECRET THAT YOGA IS blooming around the world as a popular vehicle for health, well-being and inner change. While the yoga movement throughout North America is a well-cited example, few may realize another large continent’s potential yoga boom. Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, cradling 1.1 billion people in 54 diverse countries—including, as it turns out, a growing population of yoga enthusiasts.
Teaching teachers: Two of the project’s trained instructors give a demonstration of the Virabhadrasana pose
Much of the energy behind this unexpected trend can be attributed to The African Yoga Project. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the project was founded in 2007 by Paige Elenson, a New York yoga instructor and former financial consultant. With an effective system of training local instructors, the project has proven a powerful tool for spreading health, well-being and introspection, while also economically uplifting the lives of students, teachers and even entire communities.
According to an article in Fair Observer, The African Yoga Project has trained over 200 teachers who offer 350 free yoga classes a week in 80 locations, reaching over 6,000 people. The project’s core weekly activities include yoga asanas, meditation, self-inquiry, performing arts, health and disease education, relationship building and community activism. Many of the program’s yoga teachers and students have been lifted from lives of crime and poverty into places of stability and dharmic living.
A sweet find: This recovered Ganesha murti was carved from granite in the Chalukyan style sometime in the 12th century
JUST DAYS BEFORE GANESHA Chaturthi, in late August, an auspicious discovery was made at Laxmipuram in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. While digging for the foundation of the new Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, a 12th century Ganesha murti was uncovered. The area happens to be part of the KCP Sugars factory, under which Ganesha had resided.
According to an article in The Hindu, the sugar company had started work in the northeast corner of their operation in preparation for the temple construction. The excavator operator stopped when he heard an odd sound while digging. He discovered a stone structure, and upon carefully removing the soil, found the three-foot granite murti.
KCP’s CEO Venkateswara Rao said they immediately alerted officials of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, who rushed to the premises to examine the Ganesha. He later explained they had been planning the temple for the last three years. He stated: “When we finally commenced the work, we found a Ganesh murti. This really is a blessing from God.”
A MOTORCADE SPORTING TWO large likenesses of Ganesha and Hanuman drove through Edinburgh in mid-September, followed by devotees dressed as devas, asuras and Hanuman’s monkey army, all proceeded by—that’s right—bagpipes! In celebration of the final day of Navaratri, Hindus in Scotland took to the streets with their own cultural flair to enjoy one of the largest free and independent festivals in the country.
Hundreds paraded from Edinburgh’s Festival Square to Calton Hill, where 25-foot demon effigies were set ablaze to commemorate Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. Each year the effigies are constructed by the inmates of Saughton Prison, who learn skills in carpentry and design in the process.
This was the 20th year that Vijayadashami has been publicly celebrated in Scotland’s capital. The many events included cultural programs integrating Scottish and Indian music and dance, as well as arts and crafts, workshops for children and of course, plenty of traditional Indian food. Glasgow, Scotland’s second largest city, also saw a large turnout of celebrants.
Blending cultures: A man dressed as a sadhu leads the Lothian and Borders Police Band as they parade from Festival Square to Calton Hill in Edinburgh
SETTLED BY HINDU ARTISANS over 300 years ago, Shankaria Bazaar, or “Hindu Street” as it is commonly known, is a testament to the rich cultural art forms that still flourish deep within Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka. This street is interspersed with richly decorated colonial-period brick buildings, held between narrow alleyways and small shops. The bazaar’s many workshops are owned by an array of artists and craftsmen. Painters, carvers, potters, jewelers, kite makers, tailors, and more are distributed along the street. Branching alleyways and staircases lead to courtyards and living spaces. It is a buzzing atmosphere of color, art, unique people and a lasting culture.
Murti shop: A shop making Ganesha images on Shankaria Bazaar’s main street
NEARLY ONE HUNDRED TEMPLES and historical monuments in the Nalgonda district of the state of Telangana are in danger of being submerged as a result of the Pulichinthala Project, a large multi-purpose irrigation and hydroelectric reservoir which opened in December of 2013.
The reservoir is of great importance for use by farmers, as well as irrigation, power and flood control for the surrounding area. However, it has raised some major issues. The increasing water levels have caused the displacement of over 6,700 families from 13 villages—four of which will go underwater by the time the reservoir reaches just a quarter of its capacity. Relocation efforts are progressing for the people, but the plans for moving the historical temples and monuments have seen delays in their implementation. Though the reservoir will be filled slowly over the next three years, the water is already beginning to overtake some of these important sites.
Going underwater: A villager of Vellatur points to the submerged Papanasheshwara Swamy Temple in the Pulichinthala Project in Nalgonda district
PAUL BRUNTON WAS ONE OF the major players in last century’s dramatic introduction of yoga and Hindu spirituality to the West. In the 1930’s he described meetings with yogis, sadhus and gurus in books that opened up wondrous new worlds to the spiritually inclined. After he had a life-transforming mystical experience while sitting with Ramana Maharishi, his writings became infused with teachings of the Self. His subtle philosophy and keen insights wrapped in an articulate and modern idiom are still much appreciated today.
The author: Mr. Brunton (1898-1981) was a British writer, philosopher and mystic
Larson Publications has just released The Short Path to Enlightenment, a book of selected passages from Brunton’s voluminous notes. “The title is not meant to imply a shortcut to illumination,” explains publisher Paul Cash, who was Brunton’s friend and disciple. “On the contrary, in this work, Brunton disapproves of those who claim to teach instant realization and of a simplistic sort of Vedanta, popular today, which confuses intellectual understanding for enlightenment.” The term “short path,” here, refers to the book’s principal theme, that the Self is immediate, near to us, not distant in time or space, to be grasped in a timeless now. “But much evolution must happen to come to that point,” Cash stresses. “It is a crucial distinction for today’s seekers to understand, and it is why we released these notes at this time.”
THIS YEAR’S HINDU MANDIR
Executives’ Conference was held September 19-21, 2014, in Orlando, Florida. Over 200 adult and youth delegates attended, representing some 85 mandirs and Hindu organizations throughout North America. The theme of this year’s conference was the role of temples in Hindu education.
POLICE IN THE PROVINCE OF SAN
Luis, Argentina, will have an opportunity to participate in the department’s new “Ayurvedic Anti-Stress Program,” learning proven methods to reduce stress levels. The many benefits of this program have been demonstrated by over 600 scientific studies at over 250 universities and medical schools in 33 countries.
HINDUS, SIKHS, BUDDHISTS,
Jains and Zoroastrians observed the 2014 Dharma festival at the Royal Garden in Stockholm, Sweden on August 30. The festival was organized several years ago to help spread understanding of the Dharmic faiths.
IN EARLY SEPTEMBER A RESIDENT
of Tamil Nadu found his cow had given birth to a calf with three eyes. Locals are hailing the calf as an incarnation of God Siva, born to bless the village.
ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE BY
The Indian Express, a court in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh (not a vegetarian state) has banned the sacrificing of animals for religious reasons. On September 1st the court deemed the practice cruel and barbaric and has asked police and officials to enforce the ban throughout the state. The two judges stated, “No person will sacrifice any animal in any place of worship. This includes adjoining lands and buildings.” The ban is currently receiving opposition from local priests.