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Organic Farming Methods Gaining Popularity in India


Posted on 2002/11/17 8:47:02 ( 731 reads )


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KOCHI, INDIA, November 11, 2002: Though the concept of organic farming has been catching on in Kerala for some time, absence of an effective market along with chances of corporatism of this sector is presenting a mixed scenario. "The concept is still evolving here," says Dayal, a senior organic farmer and organizer of the Muhamma-based Jaiva Karshaka Samithy. Formed in 1992, the Samithy acts as the first organized platform of organic farmers in the State. Over the last couple of decades, numerous groups as well as individual farmers have entered the organic farming sector, some out of a momentary ecological zeal and some guided by an insight into sustainable farming. While an increased awareness of "healthy food," untainted by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, is spreading among the middle classes, organic products have also begun to find a slot in the international market. Tony Mathew, an activist who runs Elements, a distribution center for organic products, warns of some pitfalls. "Organic farming is becoming more of a technical exercise and not a culture," he says, pointing out the involvement of NGO's as well as that of the government bodies like the Spices Board. Corporate forces are also eyeing the organic farming sector.






UK Media Use of the Term "Asian" Causes Confusion


Posted on 2002/11/17 8:46:02 ( 736 reads )


Source: By Raju Patel, Shakti Marg (a Hindu youth organization)





UNITED KINGDOM, November 5, 2002: In the UK, the term "Asian" is used by the media to lump together all the people from the Indian subcontinent. Ideally, Asian should also refer to Chinese, Malaysians, Arabs, Japanese, Vietnamese and related groups. But that is not so in Britain. "Asian" newspapers, such as Asian Age, Eastern Eye, and Asian Express deal almost exclusively with matters relating to people of the subcontinent. While the author feels it would be difficult to call a newspaper "People of the Indian Subcontinent Express," he states that in Britain it has become accepted that "Asian" mainly means precisely this. This "Asian" formula leaves Hindus short changed, the author believes. An example is the race riots in North England in the summer of 2001. The media proclaimed these as "Asian riots." However those rioting were Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims, not Hindus. Newspaper coverage of the conflicts in India often refer to the "Asian community" and don't accurately represent the Hindu viewpoint. Other areas of note are the differences in culture and ethos among Asians and differences in employment, crime and educational statistics of ethnic minorities in the UK. HPI adds: In the US and Canadian press, "Asian" is a rarely used term, and the term "Asiatic" is regarded as "offensive," according to the Associated Press Stylebook. When "Asian" is used in the US, it would mean Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and related peoples, and not Indians. The people of Asia the Indian subcontinent living in the West are identified in articles by their country of origin -- Chinese-Americans (or Canadians), Indian-Americans, Pakistani-Americans, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, etc.






Exhibition of Hindu Bronzes Opens in Washington D.C.


Posted on 2002/11/17 8:45:02 ( 947 reads )


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WASHINGTON D.C., USA, November 8, 2002: In an exhibit billed as "The Sensuous and the Sacred," the Smithsonian Institution will introduce the American public to Chola bronzes. The show, opening Sunday at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, includes a 28-inch bronze statue of Manikkavachakar, a poet-saint of South India who lived 1,200 years ago. This is the first time an exhibit devoted to Chola bronzes has been assembled in the United States, said guest curator Vidya Dehejia, professor of art history at Columbia University. Icons of Siva, Parvati and other Hindu Gods are included in the statues on display that were made by unknown sculptors during the Chola Dynasty in South India. The Chola kings ruled the southeastern area of India, now known as Tamil Nadu, from 850 to 1300 CE. "For the artist, and also for the viewer, the external beauty of form is almost a condition for inner spiritual beauty," said Vidya. "The two have to go hand in hand." Artists molded the figures in beeswax and surrounded it with clay that took the form of the wax. Heated from outside, the wax melted, was poured out and replaced with molten bronze. A video at the exhibit will show how this "lost wax" process is used today to create works of art in India. Additionally, live demonstrations will be scheduled. After the exhibit closes in Washington on March 9, it will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art, April 4 to June 15, and to the Cleveland Museum of Art, July 6 to September 14. HPI adds: Some Hindus consider the title of this exhibit, "The Sensuous and the Sacred," as an unfortunate description of these bronzes, which are regarded by Hindus as sacred and intended for temples. The title seems intended to increase attendance at the exhibit by implying an element of sexuality not present in the images.






High Court Stays Archeological Survey of India Takeover of Famed Temple


Posted on 2002/11/16 8:49:02 ( 843 reads )


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CHENNAI, INDIA, November 16, 2002: The Madras high court on November 13 stayed implementation of a notification by the Central Government of India, proposing to declare the just renovated Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai, one of the country's largest, as a national heritage. Issuing the direction on a petition filed by Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Commissioner M. A. Gowrishankar challenging the October 21 notification by the Archaeological Survey of India, Justice R. Balasubramaniam issued notice to the Union Secretary (Department of Culture and ASI). On November 11, the State government had filed a petition against the notification, declaring the temple as a national monument. In the writ petition, the commissioner had pointed out that an appeal against a scheme drawn up by the high court for management of the temple was pending in the Supreme Court. He said the government had declared Tiruvannamalai as a heritage town in 1993 and introduced guidelines, which led to a controversy over the maintenance of a "girivalam" (park) around the temple and filing of several writ petitions against the GO. He contended that one of the petitioners had sought declaration of the temple as a monument and that the Centre, in its counter-affidavit, had taken the position that it could not be so. The notification was contrary to its earlier stand and a "colorable" exercise of power. It also did not contain any material to enable persons concerned to file objections. It would take away the powers of trustees and other authorities, affecting day-to-day affairs. Seeking to quash the notification, the petitioner had also sought a stay of its operation till disposal of his petition or maintenance of status quo.






Texas Hindus Lay a Foundation for the Future


Posted on 2002/11/16 8:48:02 ( 892 reads )


Source: The Austin American Statesman





AUSTIN, TEXAS, November 6, 2002: A light rain blessed the day as hundreds of Hindus convened under a mammoth tent in North Austin to bless land in preparation for building a temple. The five-acre field is the future site of the Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir and Cultural Complex for Austin-area Hindus, but particularly important for devotees of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, commonly known as BAPS. The Shilanyas Vidhi, ceremonial laying of the foundation stone, which took place on Saturday, was meant to purify and pay homage to the land before construction. "It takes a lot of sacrifice and giving up a lot of things (to build a temple)," said Dhwipa Patel, a University of Texas senior and an organizer at the ceremony. With Austin's growing Southeast Asian population, local BAPS leaders estimate that there are 600 followers in the area who worship at home or in a rented studio space. BAPS, which emphasizes physical and spiritual purity, was founded in 1801 by Lord Swaminarayan, a guru who ignited a religious movement in India and was worshipped as God incarnate by his followers. The current guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, follows in an unbroken line of succession which began with Lord Swaminarayan. BAPS communities in Texas are close-knit, relying on each other spiritually and financially. In Houston, the headquarters of the Southwest region, a new sanctuary that mirrors the ornate marble structures in India will open in 2004. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to participate in a project like this," said Jayesh Shelat, a Houston volunteer. The plans for the Austin temple and cultural center are still being reviewed and ultimately must receive the blessing of spiritual leaders in India, Sharan Patel said.






Exhibition of Aum Paintings Unveiled


Posted on 2002/11/16 8:47:02 ( 1048 reads )


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RAJKOT, INDIA, November 14, 2002: Rudra International Pictures announces "An Exhibition Of Digital Canvas Painting On The Supreme Power AUM." The exhibition will be held November 20-24, 2002, at the Shyamaprasad Art Gallery, Race Course Ground, Rajkot, Gujarat, India. Featured artist Jayesh Kansara says, "As a child, I have fond memories of my parents spiritual inclination. This developed my own interest towards AUM. It is with their blessings and inspiration my earlier paintings of AUM were conceptualized on paper. Later on, I progressed to the highly evocative medium of Digital Art, which is extremely popular in today's Contemporary Art. I believe Digital Art has the power to transgress mindsets and deliver the power of AUM to the viewer. I have metamorphosed Aum visually into many varied themes to the best of my knowledge, understanding and mental capacity. And needless to say, I still remain vastly incomplete." For more information on the artist and exhibition, readers may contact "source" above.






An Appeal for Ideas and Resources


Posted on 2002/11/16 8:46:02 ( 857 reads )


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GADSDEN, ALABAMA, November 16, 2002: A Hindu group in Alabama, in the southern USA, is celebrating "India Day" in their children's schools and are seeking ideas and resources which will project India's cultural heritage and festivals. Ideas, posters and videos would be much appreciated in order to make the "India Day" a resounding success. Readers may contact "source" above to offer assistance.






Balinese Hold Cleansing Ritual at Terrorist Blast Site


Posted on 2002/11/15 8:49:02 ( 782 reads )


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BALI, INDONESIA, November 15, 2002: Amid charred vehicles and piles of rubble, Balinese worshippers presented elaborate offerings of grain and fruit in a cleansing ceremony Friday at the site of last month's nightclub bombings in Bali. The Hindu ceremony was also attended by ministers, ambassadors and victims' families. Other rituals were performed on a nearby beach in the tourist town of Kuta. Religious leaders sprinkled the bombing site with holy water and burned incense next to pictures of the victims. After the terrorist blasts, Balinese elders and religious leaders consulted sacred texts and decided to hold Friday's ceremony to "place the souls of the victims in the correct plane, to purify them and show them the right way to enter the next cycle," said Ngurah Gede, one of the organizers. The ceremony is "a very specialized ceremony that has never happened before," he added. The ceremony is done following war. Smaller ceremonies led by Balinese Hindus also were being held Friday and Saturday at the site of the World Trade Center attack in New York and in London, Sydney, Toronto and San Francisco. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, though Bali is predominantly Hindu.






Kerala Priests to Discuss Temple Entry for Everyone


Posted on 2002/11/15 8:48:02 ( 931 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, INDIA, November 11, 2002: Hindu priests, heads of various Hindu bodies and seers will meet at Kottakkal, Kerala's Malappuram district, on November 24 to discuss whether entrance to Hindu temples should be available to all, regardless of religion. In most temples in Kerala, non-Hindus are not allowed entry. Famous singer, K. J. Yesudas, an ardent devotee of Guruvayurappan and Ayyappan who has sung several songs for the Deity was denied entry to the temple on the ground that he was born a Christian and, despite his devotion to Hindu Gods, has never converted to Hinduism. Similarly, poet Yusufali Kecherry, who has written songs to Lord Krishna, is not allowed to enter the Guruvayur temple because he is a Muslim. The meeting is being held under the initiative of Azhvanchery Raman Thamprackkal, who is regarded as the religious head of the Namboodiri sect in the state. "It is a custom to cleanse the religion and regain spiritual sheen of Hindustan," a spokesman of the Azhvanchery family told the Hindustan times. "No believer should be denied entry into a temple just for the reason that he or she was born in another religion. Hinduism is at a crossroads now. Only an internal reformation exercise can revive its old glory and the conclave is a step towards that direction," the spokesman said. However, he hastened to add that consensus among all religious heads and priests was necessary for the success of the meeting.






Regularly Eating Herbs and Spices Provides Health Boost


Posted on 2002/11/15 8:47:02 ( 774 reads )


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UNITED STATES, Nov 11, 2002: Recent research shows that it's health-savvy to sprinkle herbs and spices in your food all year long. "We now know they act as potent antibiotics, blood thinners, anticancer agents, anti-inflamatories, insulin regulators and antioxidants," says Harry G. Preuss, Ph.D., physiologist at Georgetown University Medical Center and a top researcher in the field. "In tiny doses, eaten regularly in food, common herbs and spices are unique health boosters." (HPI adds: Indian Ayurvedic physicians came to the same conclusion thousands of years ago.) For example, researchers have found that ginger compounds (gingerols) reduce pain in animals and act as Cox-2 inhibitors, similar to the anti-arthritis drug Celebrex. Gingerols also thin the blood "just like aspirin," suggesting that gingerols also fight heart disease. Research has proven that ginger is anti-inflammatory and patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, who took 255 milligrams of ginger extract twice a day for six weeks, had less knee pain than those not getting ginger. Another spice with health benefits is the yellow spice turmeric, a constituent of curry powder, which contains high concentrations of the potent antioxidant curcumin. New tests suggest curcumin helps stifle cancer. Researchers speculate that curcumin blocks the activation of genes that trigger cancer. In addition, curcumin's anti-inflammatory activity reduces arthritic swelling and progressive brain damage in animals. Cinnamon, another spice used commonly in Indian cooking, helps control spikes of blood sugar. This is important as avoiding high circulating levels of blood sugar and insulin may help ward off diabetes. Research also indicates that onion, garlic, cumin, cloves and bay leaves are strong antibiotics.






"Miss Cleo" Settles Federal Suit


Posted on 2002/11/15 8:46:02 ( 867 reads )


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WASHINGTON, USA, November 14, 2002: The operators of Miss Cleo's psychic hot line agreed Thursday to cancel US$500 million (yes, that's 2,350 crore rupees) in customer bills to settle federal charges that the service fleeced callers while promising mystical insights into love and money. Hindus may find it difficult to believe, but such psychic hot lines are very popular in the United States. The settlement requires Access Resource Services Inc. and Psychic Readers Network Inc. to stop using pay-per-call numbers to sell their soothsaying services, the Federal Trade commission said. The two Fort Lauderdale, Florida, based companies, which promoted a national network of "psychic readers" on television and the Internet, also must pay the FTC a $5 million fine. Under the settlement, the companies did not admit to breaking any law but agreed to stop trying to collect money from customers who called the service and to forgive about $500 million in outstanding charges. The service also must return all uncashed checks to customers. Howard Beales, director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau said that during three years of operation the service charged people about $1 billion and collected half of it -- mostly from customers quite satisfied with the service. The service's business fell sharply in the past year following the FTC lawsuit and is now shutting down, Beales said. The FTC filed a lawsuit in February accusing the companies of misdeeds including false promises of free psychic readings, tricky billing tactics to squeeze money out of callers and unrelenting and abusive telemarketing calls. The FTC said the psychic service promised a free reading, but consumers calling a toll-free number were directed to a 900 number charging $4.99 per minute. HPI adds: The FTC did not accuse Miss Cleo of not being able to provide psychic readings, rather the complaint had to do with illegal marketing, charging and collection procedures -- practices regulated by general telemarketing laws.






Kedarnath Temple Closes for the Winter


Posted on 2002/11/14 8:49:02 ( 773 reads )


Source: PTI





GOPESHWAR, INDIA, November 6, 2002: The Hindu shrine of Kedarnath, located in Garhwal, Himalayas, closed Wednesday for the winter. The deputy Rawal (priest) of the shrine closed the Kapat (doors) amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns, as snow and stormy winds started blowing through the region. Hundreds of devotees of Lord Siva, including saints, temple employees and others, offered prayers Wednesday morning at the shrine before its closure. The shrine will be reopened in April-May next year. Kedarnath, one of the most renowned Hindu pilgrimage sites, is located at an altitude of 3,584 feet in Rudraprayag district of the North Indian state of Uttaranchal. The doors of Yamunotri and Gangotri temples were also closed Tuesday, while the door of Badrinath shrine will be closed on November 17 for the entire winter season.






Dalits Seek Conversion From Hinduism to Better Their Lives


Posted on 2002/11/14 8:48:02 ( 769 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 9, 2002: Rebelling against their birth, Dalits ("untouchables") across India are converting from Hinduism to better their lives. To belong a valued members of society and not to be persecuted,or even killed, for being born "untouchable," this is possible in this lifetime they believe. But possible, a growing number amongst Dalits are saying, only by discarding Hinduism. This rejection of their inherited faith occurs sometimes in quiet private ceremonies, and at other times as loud political protests. Like the mass Dalit conversions that happened in Gurgaon, Haryana, 14 days after the Jhajjar lynchings on October 15. Or like the spurt of conversions Dalits foresee occurring in protest against the new bill in Tamil Nadu that proposes to prohibit "conversion from one (religion) to another by use of force or allurement or fraudulent means." Not all conversions, though, are knee-jerk reactions to the latest caste atrocity nor the result of cynical manipulation by politicians. The Dalits of Meenakshipuram, Tamil Nadu, discussed conversion for seven years before quitting Hinduism to free themselves from the practices of untouchability and police harassment. In 1981, 150 Dalit families in this sleepy hamlet in Tirunelveli district embraced Islam. Caste, however, finds its way into most religions in India. Categories like Dalit Christians, Reddy Christians, Nadar Christians continue to matter. Syrian Christians are known to call themselves "originally Brahmin." Moreover, there is discrimination even within the church. For example, in Tamil Nadu's Tiruchirapalli and Palayamkottai districts, there are separate pews and burial grounds for Dalit Christians. The nine-judge Supreme Court ruling in the 1993 Mandal case recognized caste in Christianity. "There are inequalities in other religions but not even near as stark as in Hinduism," says Delhi-based advocate Rashid Saleem Adil, who was Ram Singh Vidyarthi two decades ago. Many have also observed that neo-converts seem to be grasping for meaning in their new belief systems. However, not all neo-converts are too bothered by the burden of a new identity. In Rahmat Nagar, most neo-Muslims do not wear a fez cap, not one woman is wearing the burqa, and for the men it does not mean multiple marriages.






The Resilient Brahmins


Posted on 2002/11/14 8:47:02 ( 1298 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 10, 2002: Brahmins continue to dominate India's sociopolitical spectrum, despite Mandalisation (legislation to reduce their influence). Four years after Prime Minister V. P. Singh's decision in 1990 to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations, it was hailed and reviled with equal fervor. While the upper castes saw it as the death knell of their aspirations, the backward castes and Dalits ("untouchables") believed it was the gateway to a new world, free of brahminical hegemony. But 12 years after the announcement, and eight since the judgment, brahmins are far from marginalized. Nine of the 12 years have seen brahmin Prime Ministers, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and for five years there was also a brahmin President, Shankar Dayal Sharma. The current Lok Sabha Speaker, Manohar Joshi is a brahmin, as are the three chief ministers of Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, Gen. S. Padmanabhan and Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, are also brahmins. Brahmins proliferating in top corporate positions, or at the top of the culture and entertainment worlds are too many to name. Additionally, four permanent fixtures in the Indian cricket team, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, are brahmins. Although in the North, brahmins have held their own even more successfully than in South India, undoubtedly, lasting changes did occur, rendering brahmins irrelevant in politics. In the bureaucracy, too, brahmins have been reduced to a minority, but even that minority is not doing all that badly. Also South Indian brahmins continue to thrive in the private sector. In the new fields of technology the Indian contribution to software development, is primarily the achievement of South Indian brahmins.






Audiovisual Presentation on Swami Vivekananda Tours USA


Posted on 2002/11/14 8:46:02 ( 1590 reads )


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KERALA, INDIA, November 9, 2002: Swami Jyotirmayananda of Karnataka, an independent monk of the Ramakrishna tradition, is the author and publisher of a book on Swami Vivekananda. Swami participated in the 1993 Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, in commemoration of the centenary of the First Parliament held in 1893, and the Global Vision 2000 Program in Washington, in commemoration of the centenary of Swami Vivekananda's visit to America. In August, 2000, he attended the U.N. Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. In the context of the centenary of the Mahasamadhi, July 4, 2002, of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Jyotirmayananda has prepared an Audiovisual presentation on Swami Vivekananda. 45 minutes in length, and titled "Swami Vivekananda -- The Great Hindu Monk of India and His Lasting Spiritual Legacy to Humanity," it is being shown to the student community in some of the educational institutions in the U.S., through the auspices of the Hindu Students Council. Swami Prabuddhananda, Head of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, has arranged for the presentation on Swami Vivekananda for January 1, 2003, at his center. Any institution, religious, cultural, social or educational, who would like to know more about the presentation can contact Swami at "source" above.




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