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Repainting Of Kolams At Meenakshi Temple
Posted on 2014/5/30 16:56:51 ( 507 reads )


MADURAI, INDIA, May 25, 2014 (Times Of India): The frescoes on the roof of Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple and the kolams (rangoli) patterns on the floor are outstanding works of art. The kolams, drawn by connecting hundreds of thousands of dots, are obviously the outcome of strenuous efforts. Now, efforts are being taken to preserve and repaint the kolams.

A grand kolam connected by a hundred thousand dots is in the corridor near the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Sundareswarar. It was drawn by a group of women about 35 years ago to keep the tradition alive and also as a form of penance. Family members of the original artists are now repainting them and are expected to complete the exercise in a day or two.

Painting of kolams in the temple was started by Lalitha Sankar. She had learned its intricacies from S. V. Thambirasu, a master kolam artist. Lalitha used to draw beautiful kolams on the floor of the temple way back in 1979. Subsequently, a small group of women trained by her managed to draw one hundred thousand kolams in the temple corridors. They were repainted from time to time. Now, Lalitha's daughters-in-law have taken up the task. They first draw the design with chalk and then paint over it. They are guided by older women adept in the art.

Drawing of kolams is an integral part of Indian culture. It is believed kolams bring prosperity to homes. It is also said the wellbeing of the artist is enhanced when one bends to draw the designs early in the morning.

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A Point Of View: Is It Better To Be Religious Than Spiritual?
Posted on 2014/5/30 16:56:45 ( 485 reads )


UNITED KINGDOM, May 24, 2014 (BBC, By Tom Shakespeare): More and more people are rejecting religion but embracing spirituality. But have they got things the wrong way around, asks Tom Shakespeare. After a relationship break up a few years ago, I signed on to a dating website. Filling in my online profile, I was interested to discover that the question on religious belief included an option that was new to me. You could tick boxes for the major religions, or for atheist, or for SBNR, which I discovered stands for "Spiritual But Not Religious". Whereas the word "religion" generally refers to organized forms of worship and a wider faith community, "spiritual" often describes people's private individual beliefs.

A few minutes on Google revealed that SBNR is more than just an acronym. One in three Americans defined themselves as spiritual but not religious. Millions of people now think of themselves as on their own personal spiritual path, but not affiliated to any specific religion. American sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell talk about "Nones" - people who belong to no religion but still believe in God. Others have used the term "moralistic therapeutic deism" to refer to how young people are turning towards a vague belief that God exists and the point of life is to be happy. You could also call it "pseudo-religion".

The people who tick the SBNR box are distinguishing themselves from atheism. They would probably believe in some supreme being or higher power. Perhaps they're interested in Eastern spirituality or some eclectic mixture of ideas. SBNR reflects a rejection of the dogmas of organized religion. People might say, "I am not interested in organized religion, but I do have room in my life for spirituality." They have a sense that there is something "above and beyond" the everyday.

The word "religion" is thought to derive from Latin "religare", to bind or connect. I think that sense of a connection is the key point. Religion offers a bond between individuals and it helps them form a connection to the wider universe. Without religion, the danger is that an individual thinks that he or she is the centre of the universe. Religion asks more of you than just to look after yourself. Because religion is a collective practice, it enables us to learn from others around us, and from a history of sincere and disciplined examination of the problems of life - a history which is sometimes called the Wisdom Traditions. Through reflection and discussion in the context of religion, we can achieve discernment, which means seeing reality more clearly.

More at source

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2014/5/30 16:56:39 ( 460 reads )


If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.
-- French scholar Romain Rolland

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Learning the Secrets Of Long LIfe
Posted on 2014/5/26 18:23:00 ( 634 reads )

CALIFORNIA, U.S., May 6, 2014 (University of Southern California): In the lush, verdant hills of India, Bhagavan Kani rises from his bed. He spends a few serene moments gazing at the early morning sun as it crests the horizon, sipping water infused with a local spice leaf called tulsi. Kani eats a simple breakfast of raw vegetables and fruits. Barefoot, he sweeps the leaves from a dirt path in his garden and climbs steep stone steps to take a stroll through the hilly village. Later that day, he sits outside his coconut-leaf-thatched hut, recites tribal songs and talks to plants and animals.

It's a quiet existence that normally wouldn't garner much attention. But Murali Nair, a clinical professor at the USC School of Social Work, is fascinated for one simple reason -- the man is more than 100 years old. "People are definitely living longer," Nair said. "I'm not saying that medical advances have nothing to do with it, but there are other reasons. There must be something beyond their genes, maybe something we can document."

Through interviews and visits with dozens of centenarians around the world, Nair is exploring lifestyle factors that may influence health and promote longevity. He has identified 11 attributes shared by all his study subjects, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Nair is hopeful that his findings will bring legitimacy to practices that are often overlooked and sometimes scorned by the health care establishment, such as spiritual rituals, a positive outlook on life and various traditional healing practices.

"They have a general air of optimism and positivity and try to instill that attitude in others around them," Nair said. "They engage in physical and mental activity on a daily basis, often cleaning, walking, gardening, cooking, reading, writing and memorizing passages of poetry, stories and life events. Learning never ends for them. They always hang around with people much younger than them. Even with a child, they find something to talk about."

Many of the centenarians he has met practice careful eating habits; most are vegetarians who consume fresh vegetables and fruits, spices and herbs in small but regular quantities. Physical and mental activities and practices such as bathing in cold water and watching the sunrise in the early morning are common.

Much more at source.

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Hindu Educational Foundation Recognizes Teachers
Posted on 2014/5/26 18:22:53 ( 519 reads )


SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, May 22, 2014 (Thousand Oaks Acorn): The Hindu Educational Foundation's Los Angeles chapter presented a Teachers Appreciation Day on May 10 in Simi Valley. Teachers from the Simi Valley, Moorpark, Conejo Valley and Oak Park school districts were recognized during the event. Around 100 participants attended. Students presented a mosaic of cultural programs with elements from Indian classical dance, martial arts, folk dances and yoga. Students also offered thanks to their teachers and presented flowers and a book on yoga.

This year, the HEF LA chapter joined with the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh to honor teachers. The event began with the traditional lighting of the lamp by Dr. Amrit Ram, an assistant professor in the life sciences division at the SVYASA Yoga University. Ram presented a demonstration of yogic posture and breathing pattern for replacing anger and fatigue. He also showed how the different hand and body postures of yoga are translated into Hindu classical dancing.

The Hindu Educational Foundation, an educational project by Hindus in the USA, strives to replace various misconceptions with correct representation of India and Hindu Dharma. HEF believes that right understanding of any faith, including that of Hindu Dharma, would lead to peace and harmony as well as preservation and nurturing of religious diversity. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA is a voluntary, nonprofit, social and cultural organization. Sangh, as the organization is known, aims to organize the Hindu community in order to preserve, practice and promote Hindu ideals and values.

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2014/5/26 18:22:47 ( 514 reads )


Take up one idea and make that your life-- think of it, dream of it, live on it. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. One single soul with good motives, sincerity and infinite love can destroy the dark designs of millions of hypocrites and brutes.
-- Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), disciple of Sri Ramakrishna

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Kanaka Durga Temple Owns 100 kg Gold
Posted on 2014/5/25 17:39:59 ( 594 reads )


VIJAYAWADA, ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA, May 25, 2014 (The Hindu): Sri Durga Malleswara Swamyvarla Devasthanam owns more than 100 kg gold and nearly one and half tons silver. The Sri Durga Malleswara Swamyvarla Devasthanam has gold ornaments and jewelry weighing 55 kg. In addition it has gold reserves with the State Bank of India (SBI). With a wish to convert this "idle" gold into a perennial source of income coupled with security reasons, the temple deposited gold weighing 55.382 kg with the SBI under Gold Bond Scheme, source say. The temple authorities say that their efforts in converting "dead assets" has started yielding results. The temple is receiving an interest of US$8,560 on the gold deposited with the bank, they say.

The temple also received silver ornaments, etc., weighing 1,476 kg. The temple authorities sometime ago converted the gold ornaments presented by the devotees into pure gold, 24 carat. The ornaments that have either broken, less in quality wise, or cannot be used regularly were taken to Mumbai. The purity of those ornaments ranged between 18 carat to 22 carat, sources say.

The devotees have been presenting various gifts to the goddess. Some time ago, city based industrialists Kankanala Ramesh and Koganti Satyam presented a golden veena worth about $67,000 to the temple. About 2 kg of gold was used in the making of the Veena. The veena is being used for Saraswati Alankaram on Moola Nakshatram during Dasara.

The Kanaka Durga temple hundi collections touched new heights and surpassed its own records. The temple received an income of $1.7 million during first half of 2013.

For more on this popular temple on the banks of the River Krishna:

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Thousands Of "Missing Girls" In Pakistan Suffer In Silence
Posted on 2014/5/25 17:39:53 ( 783 reads )


WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2014 (Hindu American Foundation) An estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls are abducted every year in Pakistan, as reported by the Hindu American Foundation's (HAF) tenth annual human rights report, released today. Their stories, unfortunately, have largely gone unnoticed by the international community. "Similar to the plight of the 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria, girls and women from Pakistan's religious minority communities are under constant threat of kidnapping, forced conversions to Islam, and either being married off to older Muslim men or being sold into the sex trade," said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF's Director/Senior Human Rights Fellow and author of the report.

Kalra added, "Given the prevalence of such incidents, the U.S. Department of State must change its policy towards Pakistan and designate it as a 'Country of Particular Concern' for its ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom. A CPC designation is necessary and will help expedite long-overdue reforms, while furthering our national interests in promoting secular democracy and moderate forces in Pakistan." Abductions and forced conversions were among several issues covered in the Foundation's latest report, entitled Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights 2013. The report documented the challenges facing Hindus and other similarly situated minorities in ten countries/regions around the world within the context of domestic legal frameworks and international human rights law.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Pakistan, in particular, were censured as Egregious Violators for either engaging in or allowing rampant and systematic human rights violations to take place against their minority populations. The report also detailed conditions in Bhutan, the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, which were designated as Countries of Serious Concern, as well as those labelled as Monitored Countries, including Fiji, Saudi Arabia, and Trinidad and Tobago. It further highlighted HAF's on-the-ground fact-finding missions and direct relief projects with refugee populations.

"From discriminatory constitutional injunctions and laws, to widespread restrictions on religious freedom, to violence and discrimination, the human rights and fundamental civil liberties of religious minorities are coming under increasing attack from both state and non-state actors in many of these countries," said Kalra. "It is imperative that the international community and the U.S. urgently address this unrestrained denial of basic human rights."

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Daily Inspiration
Posted on 2014/5/25 17:39:46 ( 432 reads )


Life is meant for God-realization. If you die without attaining God-realization, your life is in vain. Even having one hundred gurus will not help, unless the disciple has a great desire for liberation and tries to get rid of all that stands in the way.
-- Swami Chidananda (1916-2008), President of Divine Life Society

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Bali Prepares for Galungan Holidays
Posted on 2014/5/24 16:04:05 ( 453 reads )


BALI, INDONESIA, May 20, 2014, (by Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post): Hindus across Bali have been preparing for Galungan since last week. Traditional and modern markets have been flooded with people buying fruit, flowers, banana leaves and many other items especially for Galungan. Hindus have also begun to erect penjor, a decorated bamboo pole, in front of their homes, which for many is the symbol of the dragon, a beautiful evocation of wealth and prosperity.Galungan, the day to celebrate the victory of dharma (good deeds) over adharma (bad forces), is one of the major religious celebrations on the island and is followed 10 days later by Kuningan. On Wednesday, Balinese Hindus will flock to major and family temples to perform their special Galungan prayers.

The upcoming holy days start with Galungan for Hindu devotees on Wednesday (May 21). The administration has designated three days of public holiday for Galungan, starting today (May 20) for penampahan Galungan until Thursday (May 22), known as manis Galungan.

The Bali Police are preparing to safeguard the island during the various religious holidays coming up in the next two weeks. The police are also coordinating security details with the pecalang (traditional Balinese security guards) in customary villages. "As this is a religious activity, we work with the pecalang. They play a major role during Galungan," he said. As a tourism island, the police also pay attention to security in the many tourist attractions across Bali, deploying tourist police to ensure the island remains safe. "The police will not be on vacation during the religious holidays," he stressed.

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No-Fly Zone Proposed over Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Posted on 2014/5/24 16:03:27 ( 565 reads )


KERALA, INDIA, May 22, 2014 (The Hindu): Kerala police have mooted the urgent establishment of a no-fly zone over Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple to render the landmark shrine and its hoard of antique treasures stored in ancient subterranean vaults "impregnable" to airborne threats. Officials say the police have recommended that flying of kites be prohibited in the proposed no-fly zone to prevent any attempt at kite aerial photography, a relatively new technique of taking above the ground pictures using remote-controlled cameras rigged to the kites.

The police have based their proposal, which in the face of it seems more than necessary, on the possibility that non-State actors could use jury-rigged kites for covert surveillance of the area or, in a worst case security scenario, attempt an airborne sabotage operation on the temple's structure. Once the proposal comes through, possibly after discussions with and the concurrence of the Indian Air Force and civil aviation authorities, a special zone name will be accorded for the temple area and it will be notified on aeronautical charts so that pilots would know and identify in advance the area over which they are not allowed to fly.

Officials say a similar no-fly zone exists over the Tirumala Venkateswara temple in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. The Taj Mahal in Agra, the Tower of Silence in Mumbai, and Parliament House are also covered by similar zones along with refineries, nuclear installations and other strategically important assets.

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America's Most Segregated Schools May Not Be in the States You'd Expect
Posted on 2014/5/24 16:03:19 ( 495 reads )


WASHINGTON, DC, May 15, 2014 (The Washington Post): Sixty years ago this Saturday, the United States Supreme Court found state laws imposing segregation unconstitutional. Progress has been made, but the nation has been slipping, according to a new report analyzing government data from UCLA's Civil Rights Project. And the states where segregation is most prevalent today are not the ones where it reached its boiling point in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Northeast was the only region where, on average, the share of black students in almost completely minority schools has risen since 1968, according to the report titled "Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future." More than half -- 51.4 percent -- of black students in those states in 2011 were in schools whose student populations were 90 percent to 100 percent minorities. In every other region of the country -- the Midwest, West, South and "border" states -- black students today are less likely to be in heavily minority schools.

New York is one of the most segregated states for black students. It has the highest rate of black students in high-minority schools and the lowest rate of black exposure to white students. Illinois is second on both measures. Maryland is third when it comes to the share of black students in high-minority schools and fourth-lowest when it comes to black exposure to white students. California, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas also rank highly among the indicators suggesting high rates of segregation among blacks.

Today, a typical white student is likely to attend a school where about three in four students is also white. That means that an average white student looking around a typical 30-person classroom in her school will see 22 other white students, four Latinos, two blacks, an Asian and one more who would qualify under an "other" racial category. A typical black student today would see 15 blacks, eight whites, five Latinos, one Asian and one student of another racial category. A typical Latino student in a 30-person class would likely have 17 Latino classmates, eight white ones, three black and one Asian and one other.

An Asian student is likely to have 12 white classmates, seven Asian ones, seven Latino ones, three black ones and an "other."

More at source.

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REVISED REPORT, NEW URL: Complete Report on 2002 Gujarat Riots
Posted on 2014/5/24 16:03:12 ( 678 reads )


INDIA, May 23, 2014 ( Available at "source" above is an extensive report on the 2002 Gujarat riots by French journalist Nicole Elfi. It has been recommended by an HPI reader as the most in-depth account available. This new URL takes you to the 2013 revision of the article.

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New Jersey to Pay Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi with Statue
Posted on 2014/5/23 16:01:04 ( 471 reads )


SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY, May 13, 2014 (Hudson Reporter): A life-sized statue of Mahatma Gandhi will be dedicated to the state at a ceremony in Secaucus on Saturday, May 31. The statue was hand crafted in India from a single piece of rock, and is a gift to the state of New Jersey from Secaucus residents Shantaben, Maneklal, Raj, and Parul Patel of the Swaminarayan Temple. The monument will be located at the entrance to the Sadhu Vaswani Meditation Garden at the Recreation Center on Koelle Boulevard in Secaucus.

In keeping with Gandhi's teaching of Ahimsa (nonviolence), the event is being co-sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The dedication ceremony will be conducted by Revered Dada J.P. Vaswani, who will deliver the keynote address following the ceremony. HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle will also speak, and the two will engage in a town hall-style meeting with the audience.

Several state and local officials, as well as dignitaries from American and Indian institutions across the United States, are expected to grace the occasion. Among them is United States Congresswoman and war veteran Tulsi Gabbard, who said, "Gandhi is the world's most famous Hindu, but the impact that he made throughout his life spans far beyond any one sect or religion. As just one example, he made a profound impact on Dr. [Martin Luther] King who actually went and visited India, providing inspiration in the civil rights movement here at home."

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Italian Tax Donation Helps Hindu Group
Posted on 2014/5/23 16:00:58 ( 538 reads )


ITALY, May 28, 2014 (Lettera 43, summarized from the original Italian): The 8xmille (literally, "eight per thousand") initiative in Italy is a mechanism by which the taxpayer directs a small percentage of their income tax (0.8%) to 11 recognized religious denominations or the state. There are check-off boxes at the bottom of the tax form to allow the taxpayer to designate their preferred recipient. Of the funds raised by this initiative in in 2011, 87%, US$1.4 billion. The Italian government itself gets a major part of what remains for humanitarian work. The other ten recognized groups (which includes the Italian Hindu Union), are eligible to receive a portion of the remaining 8Xmille funds. This is the first year Buddhists and Hindus are among the recipient and it is not yet known how much each will receive.

For more information on this unusual system, see:

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