Yet to tell the diffusion of Indian influence at this period as two separate processes partially obscures a still more extraordinary story. For it is now increasingly clear that between the fourth and twelfth centuries the influence of India in both Southeast and Central Asia, and to some degree also China, was comparable to the influence of Greece in Aegean Turkey and Rome, and then in the rest of Europe in the early centuries BC. From the empire of the Gupta dynasty in the north and that of the Pallava dynasty in the south, India during this period radiated its philosophies, political ideas, and architectural forms out over an entire continent not by conquest but by sheer cultural sophistication.
“Hindus are, on average, richer and more educated than Muslims. But oddly, the child mortality rate for Hindus is much higher. All observable factors say Hindus should fare better, but they don't. Economists refer to this as the Muslim mortality puzzle. In a new study, researchers believe that they may have found a solution to the puzzle. And, surprisingly, the solution lies in a single factor – open defecation.” [more inside]
Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating: Since January 29 of this year, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious sect, has been residing in a freezer in his ashram in Punjab. His followers claim he is in a "deep meditative state (samadhi)." Doctors, however, have declared Maharaj clinically dead and his family have sued to have his death be investigated and to have his body released for cremation. The guru's son also alleges that Maharaj was murdered and that his followers are trying to gain control of his estate, said to be worth $170 million. While traditional yogis have claimed extraordinary powers, including the power to stop one's heart, the evidence for these claims has been lacking.
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
Over a thousand monks and laymen are revered in Tibetan Buddhism as the incarnations of past teachers who convey enlightenment to their followers from one lifetime to the next. Some of the most respected are known by the honorific "rinpoche." For eight centuries, rinpoches were traditionally identified by other monks and then locked inside monasteries ringed by mountains, far from worldly distractions. Their reincarnation lineages were easily tracked across successive lives. Then the Chinese Red Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and drove the religion's adherents into exile. Now, the younger rinpoches of the Tibetan diaspora are being exposed to all of the twenty-first century’s dazzling temptations. So, even as Tibetan Buddhism is gaining more followers around the world, an increasing number of rinpoches are abandoning their monastic vows. Reincarnation in Exile. [more inside]
The history of the Sikh Diaspora in USA and Canada goes back to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897. Emerging as a casteless alternative to the ongoing Hindu Muslim wars in India, the Sikhs have always been known as a martial tribe, their prowess and courage respected by the British and others alike. Colloquially addressed respectfully as Sardarji, the men take Singh (lion) as their middle name while the women bear the name Kaur (princess). This custom further confirmed the equality of both genders as was the tradition set by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. The first Sikh Organization was The Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society organized in the spring of 1912. [more inside]
"For the progress of humanity, work alone is not adequate, but the work should be associated with love, compassion, right conduct, truthfulness and sympathy. Without the above qualities, selfless service cannot be performed."On Sunday morning, Indian guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba passed away. He leaves behind a massive empire, several million mourning devotees worldwide, an extensive religious philosophy, a great deal of controversy and a legacy of large-scale philanthropic projects in India, including free hospitals and mobile medical facilities, a free university and schools, and other efforts which included supplying clean water to hundreds of rural villages. [more inside]
"IN THE COURTYARD OF THE BELOVED is a visual and aural portrait of Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah, a Sufi shrine in New Delhi, India. Made from over 18,000 still images and ambient sounds recorded on-site, rapid-fire bursts of kaleidoscopic imagery assemble into fractured collages where a moment expands outwards and then converges back into itself, fleshing out a three-dimensional rendering of place."
The Big Picture: Recent Hindu festivals and rituals. "Many Hindus throughout India recently celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi, a 10-day festival celebrating the birth of Ganesh, their supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Hinduism, the predominant religion in India, is rich with traditional festivals and rituals, celebrated in many ways and locations around the world. Collected here are a few photographs from recent Hindu festivals and of Hindu devotees worshipping and practicing ritual ceremonies in India, England, Nepal and Indonesia."
An American Sadhu - A seeking of holiness, resulting in disillusionment and abandonment. A very good read about one man's experience meeting a guru and his disciple, and ultimately coming full circle to "you get the guru you deserve".
India’s New Face. "Meet Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the brightest star in the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party. Under Modi, Gujarat has become an economic dynamo. But he also presided over India’s worst communal riots in decades, a 2002 slaughter that left almost 2,000 Muslims dead. Exploiting the insecurities and tensions stoked by India’s opening to the world, Modi has turned his state into a stronghold of Hindu extremism, shredding Gandhi’s vision of secular coexistence in the process. One day, he could be governing the world’s largest democracy." [Via]
Long before people called themselves Muslims or Hindus, long before they fought and died over these or any labels... water dripped and froze inside the Amarnath Cave at the heart of Kashmir. Amarnath Cave official site. Amarnath Cave pilgrimage. Amarnath virtual tour. Wikipedia's page on the Amarnath land transfer.
The operation was a success, but the patient is now a mere mortal. When she was born, her neighbors considered her a gift from God and lined up to receive her blessing. However, her parents, who wanted her to have a normal life (and refusing an offer to sell her to a circus) , found a doctor and a hospital who would operate on Lakshmi for free. [more inside]
Liberalisation's children. The Financial Times interviews seven 24-year-old Indians, all of the average age but of very different circumstances.
The real secret to producing superheroes (bollywood or otherwise) is to start them young, really YOUNG. (Link to single video)
Proceedings against MF Husain have been stayed in India's Supreme Court. A painting by the celebrated Muslim artist, apparently depicting Mother India as a nude, led Hindus to bring an obscenity case and proceedings to seize his Mumbai property were initiated. However his lawyers moved swiftly to frustrate the action, transferring the property into his son's name and then seeking the High Court ruling. Hindus have taken offense at previous paintings by Husain, depicting Hindu deities in allegedly obscene ways. Others disagree.
Kumbh Mela. Currently under way in Allahabad, India, the three-yearly Kumbh Mela festival is the largest gathering of people on the planet, as up to 70 million Hindus converge to wash away their sins where droplets of the nectar of immortality are said to have been spilt when the gods & demons struggled over it. Of perennial interest to foreigners are the hordes of sadhus (often naked, ascetic holy men) who attend, not always without incident. Recently, however, an Australian historian has cast doubt on the supposedly ancient nature of the mass gathering, suggesting that it was largely invented as a way of circumventing British control following the unsuccessful Indian Mutiny of 1857. [reg for final link: mefi / mefi]
The legacy of Dr. Babasahed Ambedkar, Indian Dalit ('untouchable') intellectual and activist who agitated for reform and equality through education for his people. He converted from Hinduism to Buddhism, and encouraged other Dalits to do likewise, based on that religion's casteless nature.
Related :- National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights.
Related :- National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights.
Dear Leo, Dear Mohandas "The longer I live -- especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death -- the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else... the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. Love... the highest and indeed the only law of life". The Kingdom of God Is Within You (full text available) is Leo Tolstoy's tractatus of "Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life", a primer of (among other things) the doctrine of non-violence. Among the many fans of the 1894 book was an imprisoned Hindu barrister, a "half-naked fakir" if you want, a certain Mohandas K. Gandhi who was fascinated by "the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness" of the book. So he ended up writing fan letters to the great Russian man: who warmly wrote back to his young Indian "friend and brother". The old wise Christian anarchist literary giant and the shy, insecure young man who sparked a revolution: to paraphrase another wise, badly-dressed , pacifist old man, "Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such men ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."
105 unconscious children temporarily buried alive in the name of religion. In a horrible ritual witnessed by an Indian government official, who quit his position shortly afterward, children were worked until exhausted, wrapped in cloth, and then buried for one entire minute. Sometimes it feels like that we will never shake off the need for ancient tradition, myth, and groundless faith, but there is a bright side. There are more non-religious people now than ever. As the information age expands, education becomes more accessible and may be the most important factor in determining how religious one is. Unsurprisingly, a follow-up article on the mass-burial quotes, "Inquiries also revealed that no educational programme had been introduced anywhere near Perayur in the last six years."
Being judgemental about (presumably) religious practices again...
Time to wash up for Hindus. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for religion and such. But if you wash your sins away in this river, you might wind up with something that won't wash off.