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Cak Amaterasu, a Perfect Marriage of Cultures

Posted on 2003/7/23 9:48:02 ( 1226 reads )

The Jakarta Post

BALI, INDONESIA, July 17, 2003: Chieko Komatsu and a number of other Japanese women came to Payangan, a famous art village, inviting 100 farmers to collaborate with them on a multi-cultural art project. The women are artists currently studying Balinese traditional dances at the Bali Institute of Arts in Denpasar. And the Payangan farmers are not only skillful at cultivating rice fields but also gifted and proficient dancers and gamelan players. The collaborative performing art project presented 100 farmers as Cak dancers, while the Japanese artists played roles from Japanese mythology. The art project, titled Cak Amaterasu, attracted a huge crowd during the 25th Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar on July 13. The story centered on the Japanese tale of three gods: Amaterasu (the God of the Sun), Tsukuyomi (the God of the moon) and Susanoo (the God of the sea). The concept of these Japanese Deities is similar to the Balinese Hindu concept of Trimurti -- Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The Cak or Kecak dance is a traditional Balinese dance first performed in the 1930s. The Cak dance is open to any kind of story and frequently features stories from the Ramayana.

Neem Tree Extracts Linked to DNA Damage

Posted on 2003/7/23 9:47:02 ( 1083 reads )


INDIA, July 20, 2003: Extracts from the Indian neem tree been shown to damage the DNA of sperm when fed in large quantity (up to 10% of their weight) to mice. Researchers who made the discovery think that neem could be a "long-term genetic hazard," and have called for further investigation to ensure that eating neem products does not produce genetic abnormalities in adults or their children. Proponents of traditional Hindu Ayurvedic medicine dispute the relevance of the results. "Neem has been used by millions of people in India over several centuries, and there has been no genotoxic effect reported so far," says Pramila Thakkar of the Neem Foundation, a Mumbai-based charity that promotes products from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica). Researchers are standing by their findings. Parimal Khan of the Patna Women's College and Kripa Awasthy of KKM College in Pakur, made an extract of neem leaves and fed it daily to male mice for a week. They reported that as the dose of neem was raised the percentage of sperm-producing cells with chromosomal damage rose in tandem. Likewise, they found steadily rising rates of damage to sperm. However, critics dismiss the findings as irrelevant. "It is impossible to determine from this study how the dose of extract compares to the crude weight of neem leaves, the form in which it is usually consumed," says Vishal Gulati, chairman of the International Ayurveda Foundation in London. HPI adds: One recommended dose of neem is 8 to 10 leaves daily, which weigh less than 1/10th of an ounce. The doses given to the mice appear equivalent to several pounds for a person. Studies with results such as this one can eventually lead to regulations or banning of the product.

America's Gorge-Yourself Environment

Posted on 2003/7/23 9:46:02 ( 1057 reads )


U.S.A., July 22, 2003: From giant sodas to supersize hamburgers, America's approach to food can be summed up by one word: Big. Many health experts are hoping that, in the service of combating an epidemic of obesity, the nation might be coaxed into a cultural shift in its eating habits. Traditionally, the prescription for losing extra pounds has been a sensible diet and increased exercise. But a growing number of studies suggests that while willpower obviously plays a role, people do not gorge themselves solely because they lack self-control. Rather, social scientists are finding, a host of environmental factors -- among them, portion size, price, advertising, the availability of food and the number of food choices presented -- can influence the amount the average person consumes. "Researchers have underestimated the powerful importance of the local environment on eating," says Dr. Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies food preferences. Health experts and consumer advocates point to the studies of portion size and other environmental influences in arguing that fast-food chains and food manufactures must bear some of the blame for the country's weight problem. "The food industry has used portion sizes and value marketing as very effective tools to try to increase their sales and profits," said Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group financed by private foundations. It is estimated that 22 percent of Americans are obese.

Kawandia Pilgrims Clsoe Hardwar-Delhi Highway

Posted on 2003/7/22 9:49:02 ( 980 reads )


DEHRADUN, INDIA, July 20, 2003: The Hardwar-New Delhi Highway was today closed for vehicular traffic for a month as thousands of pilgrims were on their way to the holy city in Uttaranchal to collect Ganga water, official sources said. The pilgrims, known as "Kawandias," pour into Hardwar from Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the thousands during the month of Shravan to collect Ganga water which they carry back to offer at Siva temples in their native places. As the highway leading to Hardwar from Delhi remains crowded with Kawandias, it has been closed to avert road accidents, the sources said.

Two Die Each Day on Amarnath Pilgrimage

Posted on 2003/7/22 9:48:02 ( 952 reads )


AMARNATH, JAMMU AND KASHMIR, INDIA, July 20, 2003: As the Amarnath Yatra enters its second week, inclement weather, unregistered pilgrims, multiple injuries and deaths are proving to be a nightmare for both the administration and the devotees. Administration officials said unprecedented cold coupled with a heavy rush of pilgrims was leading to an average of two deaths every day, in certain cases soon after return from the pilgrimage. This, however, had failed to deter the devout and vehicles loaded with over 4,000 pilgrims were arriving daily in Jammu, making the yatra a "logistical nightmare," they said. "We are ourselves camping in snow, stay arrangements here are limited, inflow of pilgrims is many times more than was envisaged initially," Commandant Vikram Singh Sahi of 86 CRPF Battalion said. He said pilgrims were being encouraged to immediately leave for the base camps after the "darshan," worship of the sacred Ice Lingam, as not only is the accommodation small but near-zero temperature at a height of 13,500 feet can have a serious affect on one's health.

Kamal Juneja, a pilgrim from Patiala, had a successful darshan, but after returning to the Baltal base camp had a massive heart attack. He was shifted to a Srinagar hospital but passed away soon thereafter. Leaving one's body in the course of a pilgrimage is considered a very auspicious death in Hinduism, as the mind has been fully concentrated on God.

Officials said against 25,000 pilgrims being permitted to have darshan in the first week, more than 60,000 undertook the pilgrimage. Efforts to stop the crowds in Jammu itself, outside the Maulana Azad Stadium, also fail as pilgrims have their way after holding dharnas (a "sit-in" form of protest) and shouting anti-government slogans, they added. Last Wednesday, the administration did not send the daily convoy of pilgrims from Jammu to the base-camps in Baltal and Nunwan. Pilgrim vehicles were also withheld at the Punjab- Jammu border in Lakhanpur to clear the rush. Pilgrims have had to wait for days together in Jammu itself, sleeping on roofs of buses or under the highway overpass in front of the stadium before being allowed to proceed further. Exasperated, many pilgrim vehicles have breached security rules and left for base camps on their own without being part of the daily military controlled convoy.

How Grandma May Nurture Longer Lives

Posted on 2003/7/22 9:47:02 ( 1015 reads )


SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, July 17, 2003: Grandparents doting on their grandchildren is more than just a stereotype. An article in the current Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences proposes the theory that nurturing grandparents are a powerful force in extending life spans through their care of the young generation.

Backing the "grandmother hypothesis," a growing belief among anthropologists that women experience menopause so they become free from their own childbearing to care for grandchildren, the article by Ronald D.Lee theorizes that it may be one of the evolutionary reasons behind today's long life spans. Natural selection has favored lengthening lives because older people have an important role to play in society and in family life.

Lee, director of the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging at UC Berkeley, said his life-cycle research explains that many species develop longevity because of the need for nurturing. Documented with research from 18th-century Sweden and contemporary Paraguay, his theory explains the continuing role of parents from an evolutionary and biological perspective, what many of today's active grandparents already know from experience. Tips on how to be a good grandparent are included at the "source."

Central Java's Hindu Temples

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:49:02 ( 1061 reads )

Jakarta Post

JAVA, INDONESIA, July 13, 2003: The Hindu temples of Gedung Songo are not as famous as their younger Javanese successors, but the scenery, clear mountain air and outstanding views create a setting that rivals Java's more celebrated temples. The beauty of visiting Gedung Songo lies in being able to slowly meander up and down the hillside, appreciating each temple individually. The six temples are evenly spaced out, about 125 to 225 yards apart, on individual plateaus and ridges. The structures, among Java's oldest Hindu temples, were built between 750 and 775 CE. The largest group of structures is clustered around temple three. The main temple here is dedicated to Lord Siva, the one to the north Lord Vishnu and the one to the south Lord Brahma. Inside, the statues of Nandiswara on the north and Mahakala on the south are still in place. Lord Ganesha is placed on the wall opposite the door, Goddess Durga on the north and Agastya on the south. This pattern is the earliest example of the distribution that was standard throughout the rest of the Central Javanese classical period, and demonstrate that it was here at Gedung Songo that Javanese architects formulated a style that persisted, with refinements, for centuries.

Kumbha Mela Elephant Injured

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:48:02 ( 1000 reads )


NASIK, INDIA, July 19, 2003: Preparations are under way for the Trayambakeshwar Kumbha Mela, the first Kumbha Mela of the 21st century, to be held in August at Nasik, Maharashtra. However, the organizers have run into a serious problem for Shivgaj, the 35-year-old elephant who was likely to lead the opening ceremony, is out with an injury. Shivgaj's hind legs are injured due to the chains used to tie him for the past one month. Efforts are now on to ensure his speedy recovery. "The elephant is important as he resembles my God Ganapathy," says caretaker Lakshmichandra Shinde. Shivgaj's caretakers insist that he needs to be chained during these months, the mating season, as he often resorts to violence in his futile search for a mate. "If you leave him these days, then he will run around and toss all vehicles like so many footballs," said Bhagwadgiri, a priest. Pilgrims and sadhus who have begun to assemble at the Trayambakeshwar Kumbha Mela site are hoping that Shivgaj will recover in time. The incident highlights the difficulty of keeping elephants in captivity, and the need for more humane systems of restraint than iron chains.

Lord Ganesha in Indonesia

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:47:02 ( 951 reads )


BANGKOK, THAILAND, January 7, 2003: Throughout the day, devotees offer flowers and incense to a large gilt statue of Lord Ganesha who sits on its high pedestal under a canopy outside Bangkok's World Trade Center. If passersby do not have a gift for the deity, they offer a simple sawasdee -- the traditional Thai greeting with respectfully folded palms, called namaskaram in India. The respect accorded to Ganesha is a reminder that Southeast Asia has had a thousand years of interaction with India. Yet modern Southeast Asians seldom mention the Hindu kingdoms that once flourished in Java, Sumatra, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. While more exalted Deities were forgotten, the lovable Lord Ganesha remained a vibrant reminder of the synergy of Indian and Southeast Asian cultures.

Upadesha on the Guru by H.H. Tejomayananda

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:46:02 ( 908 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 12, 2003: On the occasion of Guru Purnima, H.H. Swami Tejomayananda gave an upadesha in praise of the Satguru. "In Hinduism the place of the guru is considered higher than that of the Lord Himself. Atheists and nonbelievers feel that this is a gross exaggeration. They cannot comprehend the concept. We learn from teachers, who give us knowledge on various secular subjects; we respect them, but do not revere them, as we do our guru. Is the worship of the guru an overstatement? In any stuti or praise there is, normally, a tendency to exaggerate, but this does not hold true in the adoration of the Lord, His devotees, a mahatma or the guru. In fact, any praises spoken, sung or written about any of these always fall short of their true import. If we say that the sun's light is like the light of countless glowworms, will it be an overstatement?" To read the full text of Swami's talk, click on "source" above.

Amarnath "Ash" Cures Paralysis

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:45:02 ( 1262 reads )


AMARNATH, INDIA, July 15, 2003: After being bedridden for 14 years and now completely recovered from paralysis, Sarwer Ahmed was pilgrimaging to Lord Siva's holy cave shrine, Amarnath. Dressed in a dhoti and chanting "Jai Bolay Nath, Jai Shiv Shanker," this Muslim businessman, accompanied by his wife Abida, were part of the first batch to pay obeisance at the holy ice Lingam. From Assam, Ahmed said his paralysis was cured by the grace of Lord Siva after fourteen years of medical treatment that did not help. "I am happy that Lord Siva had cured my husband after we rubbed on his forehead ash (vibuthi) from the Amarnath cave brought by a family friend last year," said Ahmed's wife Abida.

"Ahmed was normal after this, and his two legs and right arm, which were paralyzed since 1988, started working well," she said. "It was the miracle of 'Bolay Baba' for us as well as doctors, who had declared him an 'incurable patient.' We had prayed to God that if Ahmed was fully cured from paralysis, we would visit Amarnath every year and this is the first time we are going", Abid said.

Iran's Bandar Abbas Hindu Temple

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:44:02 ( 3230 reads )


TEHRAN, IRAN, July 17, 2003: The historic Bandar Abbas Hindu Temple in Hormozgan Province is considered a unique sample of Indian architecture in Iran. The temple was built in 1310 CE by Indian architects for Hindus residing in the region, following the order of the Governor of the ports at the time, Mohammad-Hassan Khan Sa'dolmalek. Covering a total area of 300 meters, the temple has a large square-shaped room and a corridor embracing the room. A niche with a dome-shaped ceiling is also built in the temple which seems to be where the statute was set up. It is located in the center of Bandar Abbas, across from the bazaar long used by local salesmen. Its beautiful dome, as well as the pictures of man and horse painted on the walls draw attention of most visitors. The temple is registered as an Iranian national monument by the Cultural Heritage Organization and the renovation of the building began in 1997. HPI adds: This is the entire report on the temple, and it appears that there is neither Deity nor worship there.

U.S. National Park Service Keeps Hindu Names for Grand Canyon Buttes

Posted on 2003/7/19 9:43:02 ( 1377 reads )


WASHINGTON, D.C, July 14, 2003: Succumbing to complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Park Service (NPS) has removed plaques of Biblical passages at popular viewing areas of the Grand Canyon, citing concerns that it may violate the separation between church and state. However, the Park Service recently decided that one of the main trails into the Arizona attraction may carry the name "Bright Angel," and a number of the Canyon's formations can share the names of Hindu gods. "Brahma Temple," "Vishnu Temple," "Siva Temple," and the Trimurti are all represented as "temple buttes" in some of the Grand Canyon's most impressive rock formations. A butte is a hill that rises abruptly from the surrounding areas and has sloping sides and a flat top. In an area as deep as the Grand Canyon, the buttes rise thousands of feet. The names and areas of the Grand Canyon which bear Hindu names can be found in Hinduism Today here. These buttes are "just" recently named rock formations, and not ancient temples as is sometimes reported in India.

Hindu Pilgrims Reach Kashmir's Holy Cave

Posted on 2003/7/18 9:49:02 ( 1074 reads )


PAHALGAM,INDIA, July 12, 2003: Undeterred by the cold mountain air, rocky terrain and fears of terrorist attacks, more than 6,500 devotees camped in tents at a base camp overlooking an icy blue lake in Sheshnag, Kashmir, the last stop before the annual trek up the mountain to one of the most revered of Hindu shrines. At daybreak on Saturday, authorities allowed the pilgrims to journey the final 11 miles up to Amaranth cave at an altitude of 13,500 feet where Hindus worship Lord Siva in the form of an ice stalagmite in the ice cave shrine. About 21,000 paramilitary soldiers and policemen were deployed along the mountain route this year to protect the pilgrims from terrorists. The annual pilgrimage will end on August 12.

Amarnath Route Clogged by Unregistered Pilgrims

Posted on 2003/7/18 9:48:02 ( 1047 reads )


SRINAGAR, INDIA, July 15, 2003: Poor planning and lack of proper regulation of pilgrim traffic to Amarnath has resulted in serious inconveniences to pilgrims. Traffic from Aishmuqum to Chandanwari is clogged for hours daily while pilgrims are forced to spend nights in adjoining jungles when the base camps of Nunwan, Chandanwari and Pahalgam fill up. Officials say that though the government had fixed the pilgrim quota at 100,120 this year, a large number of unregistered pilgrims arrived and this group is twice the number of registered pilgrims. The J-K government is required to permit 3,500 pilgrims daily -- 2,700 from Pahalgam and 800 from Baltal. However, Anantnag deputy commissioner Shalendra Kumar said Pahalgam alone receives 8,000-9,000 pilgrims daily. Kumar said the carrying capacity of Pahalgam is not more than 2,500-3,000 and that he has written to the government to extend the yatra by 45 days in future.

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