Shravan 31Vik Samvat 2066. Yugabda 5111: 16 August 2009

1. FESTIVALS: Rishi Panchami is observed on Bhadrapada Shukla 5 (August 24, this year) primarily to pay homage to the Sapta Rishis – the seven sages – Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadhvaja, Vishvamitra, Gauthama, Jamadagni and Vashishta. Women in many parts of Bharat and Nepal undertake fast dedicated to Bhagwan Shankar. At many places it is the culmination of 3 day vrata starting on Bhadrapad shukla 3 – the day of Hartalika to worship Goddess Parvati. At many places, especially on the western coast, pooja is held as a mark of respect to Rishis who taught ploughing and harvesting and various delicacies from newly harvested crops and monsoon vegetables are prepared. Rishi Panchami comes a day after Ganesh Chaturthi which is celebrated with much fanfare and gaiety and signifies the essential closeness and unity with the nature in the Hindu culture.
2. 63RD INDEPENDENCE DAY AT RED FORT: It could have happened only on Independence Day when India Gate stood gazing at the Red Fort. A group of children from 36 schools across Delhi collected in a meticulous formation of the glorious India Gate as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unfurled national flag at the Red Fort.
In his customary address to the nation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that Bharatiyas had immense faith and confidence in themselves and the world's largest democracy was headed to a "new glory". He referred to a wide range of issues from climate change and water shortage to economy, terrorism and a new world order. But his tone was positive and he vowed to return Bharat to a 9 percent annual growth. He also vowed to step up the campaign against the Naxalites and provide all help to state governments to overcome the Maoist menace. Dr Singh underlined the urgent need to preserve the country's depleting water and other natural resources and went on to say that Bharat needed a new slogan: "Pani Bachao".
3. SHARM EL-SHEIKH A DIPLOMATIC FAUX PAS – P.P. SARSANGHCHALAK: Criticising the Prime Minister for his diplomatic failure at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in issuing the joint statement with his Pakistani counterpart, RSS Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat said that the reference to problems of Balochistan included for the first time in any dialogue between the two neighbouring countries is not a good omen for Bharat. The UPA government has not bothered to take the opposition into confidence on matters of such diplomatic importance and thereby failed to maintain transparency in such sensitive matters.
These views were expressed by Shri Bhagwat at the "Meet the Press" programme ( his first press meet after becoming Sarsanghchalak ) organised by the Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) at Tilak Patrakar Bhavan in Nagpur on August 3.
In reply to a question on China’s expansionist attitude, the RSS chief cautioned the countrymen and the government to maintain a strict vigil to thwart any such evil move by the Chinese dragon. He referred to the warnings issued by great visionaries like Swami Vivekananda 110 years ago, Shri Ras Behari Bose and the second Sarsanghachalak of RSS Shri Golwalkar Guruji about the Chinese expansionist designs. “Now the Chinese dragon has almost spread its tentacles to encircle Bharat. It has established a good foothold in Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma) and is even helping Sri Lanka in restricting Bharat’s strategic and diplomatic movements” he added.
4. BHARAT CAN MAKE N-POWERED AIRCRAFT CARRIER: Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman Anil Kakodkar has said that Bharat is capable of designing and developing nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. He was speaking to reporters after delivering the 15th Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture on ‘Nuclear Energy in Bharat: Way Ahead’ in Mumbai on August 3. Asked whether Bharat has such capability, he said, ‘‘Yes.’’
A legislation is being planned on nuclear liabilities keeping in mind the growth of N-commerce, the AEC chief said. During the lecture, Kakodkar said AEC was ‘‘close to the launch of the construction of the 300-MW advanced heavy water reactor. The reactor with a design life of 100 years will receive 65% of its power from thorium.’’ Highlighting the importance of Indo-US nuclear deal and stating that the availability of uranium is limited, he said, ‘‘the situation is getting precarious. Thorium will be available for two centuries.’’
‘‘We’re planning power parks consisting of six to eight units of light water reactors. Bharat has set an ambitious target of generating 40,000 mw of nuclear power by 2020,’’ he said.
5. IIIrd BASE AT ANTARCTICA: BHARAT TO JOIN ELITE CLUB: Twenty-five years after it established Dakshin Gangotri, the first permanent research station in the South Polar region, Bharat is all set to build the third such centre in Antarctica to take up cutting-edge research in various fields.
The new station, tentatively named Bharti, is scheduled to be operational by 2012, making Bharat a member of an elite group of nine nations that have multiple stations in the region.
Dakshin Gangotri, set up in 1984, was buried in ice and had to be abandoned in 1990, a year after Bharat set up Maitri, the second station. The National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, will set up the new station on Larsmann Hill, 3,000 km from Schirmacher Oasis, where Maitri stands. While Maitri was more than 100 km from the Antarctic Sea, Bharti will be on a promontory by the sea. Bharat was admitted to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), an international body that coordinates scientific activities in the region, on Oct 1, 1984. Bharat holds the vice-chairman’s post in the panel. Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, France, Russia, the UK and US have multiple stations in Antarctica.
6. ISRO TO LAUNCH NANOSATELLITE DEVELOPED BY IIT KANPUR: Taking a big leap in its technological quest, IIT Kanpur has developed a nanosatellite which is expected to provide real-time data on drought, flood, vegetation and forestation. The satellite, designed and developed by a group of students of the institute, will be handed over to ISRO, which is expected to launch it by the end of the year.
The nanosatellite, which will be named Jugnu, will have a mass of less than 10 kg. It will piggyback on larger launches, avoiding the need for a dedicated launch.
The nanosats, as they are called, are appealing because their small size makes them affordable and opens up potential for a swarm of satellites.
7. P.P. SARSANGHCHALAKJI IN CHENNAI: The first ever visit of Shri. Mohan ji Bhagwat to Chennai after assuming the responsibility of Sarsanghachalak was packed with programs starting with the flag hoisting ceremony on 15th August, at the GK Shetty Vivekananda Vidyalaya Junior College, Ambattur. A grand Public Reception was held in Thiruvanmiyur in which Justice Kumar Rajaratnam, the President of the Reception Committee presided. P.P. Sarsanghachalak in his address said that Hindutva is also basis of unity of Bharat, fountain head of capacity and capabilities of Bharateeyas, hallmark of our national identity and panacea for problems of humanity. Hindutva is non-opposing, non-reactionary and therefore not communal. Despite uncertain weather conditions, more than 5000 Swayamsevaks in uniform and about 7000 citizens attended the function. Besides a program for interaction with prominent citizens, a ‘Sadbhavana’ baithak was also held where representatives of over 25 communities participated.
8. MONOGRAPH ON DECEPTIVE EQUALITY: Intellectuals, academicians and senior politicians strongly opposed the formation of Equal Opportunity Commission and said the term ‘equal’ in the proposed Commission is deceptive and communal. Therefore, it should be rejected on constitutional and administrative ground. The intellectuals included Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Karia Munda, noted economist Dr Bajranglal Gupt, senior journalist and columnist Rajinder Puri and Rakesh Sinha. They were speaking at a monograph release function organised in New Delhi on August 8. The monograph, Deceptive Equality: Deconstructing the Equal Opportunity Commission is written by Rakesh Sinha. It was published by India Policy Foundation.
Karia Munda said there is no need of any Equal Opportunity Commission if we look at the facilities and rights granted to Muslims in the Constitution. "If the Muslims have failed to avail benefit of these rights and opportunities, it is because of their ignorance and illiteracy. It appears that what the government is doing is to appease them," he said.
Rakesh Sinha said the Britain’s Commission for Racial Equality was being touted as inspiration behind the Equal Opportunity Commission, but the expert committee on Equal Opportunity Commission suppressed the fact that Britain has rejected the Commission for Racial Equality and going towards an integrated Commission. He asked when there is a global trend towards integrated Commission why this wastage of resources on a separate Commission.
9. A DIFFERENT STATUE STORY: In the first ever act of its kind, the State Government of Karnataka, deciding to script a new chapter in the history of its relations with neighbouring Tamil Nadu, unveiled the statue of Tamil poet-saint Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore on August 9. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa deserves to be applauded for having made the installation of Thiruvalluvar’s statue possible. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi too has acknowledged as much. Efforts to install a statue of the Tamil poet-saint have been on for the last 18 years. Up till now each time the Karnataka Government tried to conjure up the political will to get the statue installed, it failed. It is in light of this that the Yeddyurappa Government’s achievement becomes more significant. It had to not only whip up popular support for the installation of the statue but also fend off criticism from pro-Kannada outfits like the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and the Kannada Vatal Paksha that were opposed to it. On both counts the Karnataka Government came out with flying colours. It has demonstrated great courage and conviction that will surely help it establish better relations with its neighbour.
The statue diplomacy comes in the backdrop of long-standing problems between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Cauvery water sharing dispute, the Hogenakkal dam issue and various border related problems remain major points of contention between the two States. But of all the issues that have led to differences, the issue of according classical language status to Kannada in Tamil Nadu is perhaps the one that is most sensitive. In this respect it is welcome that Mr. Karunanidhi has promised to do all he can to vacate the writ petition filed in the Madras High Court against the conferring of classical language status to Kannada. This was conveyed to the people of Karnataka by Mr Yeddyurappa on the occasion of the unveiling of Thiruvalluvar’s statue. Drawing on the wisdom of Thiruvalluvar he also said that the Tamil poet-saint’s works expressed human virtues and teachings that indirectly advise the Governments of the two States that the crops of the farmers of both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka should not be allowed to die for the want of water — a clear reference to the Cauvery water dispute. By acknowledging legendary poets of Tamil and Kannada literatures and by installing their statues in each others capitals, the State Governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have made a significant gesture of goodwill. It can also be construed as a symbol of respect for each others language and culture. Hopefully, this will provide a platform to resolve all the disputes that have plagued the two States for decades. (The Pioneer Editorial 11 August)
10. RENEWABLE ENERGY PUSH: SOLAR PANELS TO LINE BORDER IN KUTCH: Until now, the only thing shining in the Rann of Kutch was a mirage. Now, the scorching sun could light up another sparkling ring along the inhospitable border with Pakistan, if a Rs 61,019 crore dream comes true. And, it won't be an illusion, but real mirrors.
With about 45 investment promises lined up in solar energy sector, Gujarat plans to promote the desert as a hub for renewable energy.
Gujarat has decided to allocate 1,500 hectares of land in the desert and a small stretch in Santalpur in Bankaskantha district. The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation will create infrastructure for the ambitious `Solar Park'.
Projects with 716MW of solar power capacity have been allotted to 34 national and international project developers, including PLG Power, Lanco Solar, Moser Baer, Solar Semi Conductor, AES Solar, Astonfield, Torrent Power, Adani Power, Abengoa, Electrotherm, Welspun, and NTPC. Put together, these projects will see investment worth Rs 12,000 crore over the next few years. US-based AES Corporation is mulling to set up the world's largest solar project in the state by 2010.
11. SWINE FLU AWARENESS DRIVE by RSS IN PUNE: As the pandemic Swine flue played havoc in Bharat, the worst affected city of Pune saw the city unit of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) alongwith Janakalyan Samiti swinging into action to hold swine flu awareness drive. A meeting of officials of various organisations, including the National Institute of Virology (NIV), the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), and the Indian Medical Association was held at the RSS office. RSS workers mainly helped in Organizing awareness sessions in over 1000 housing societies, Distributing leaflets for precautions to be taken for Swine Flu, Helping Pune Municipal Corporation & Govt of Maharashtra by providing volunteers at hospitals and screening centers etc.A senior RSS worker Bapu Ghatpande said, “A team of 75 volunteers of RSS was working for at least six hours daily at the swine flu screening centers in the city, including Naidu hospital. Volunteers include medical professionals, IT professionals, youth, women and elderly.”
12. ATHEIST CAMPAIGN PICKING UP: Just as the Church publicly exhorts the faithful to follow religion, various atheist groups came together as the British Humanist Association decided to broadcast their viewpoint by purchasing advertising space on London’s buses. Non-believers were asked to coin interesting slogans and to contribute to campaign finances.
Richard Dawkins, the biologist, admirer of Charles Darwin and author of ‘The God Delusion’, announced he would match the money raised from the public. The scheme set a modest target of £5000 to be raised through public donations. But the actual collection was in excess of £150,000. It was a pointer to the campaign’s appeal and the chord it struck with many. Instead of 40 buses bearing the advertisement, it was eventually carried on 200 — much to the chagrin of the church.
The church complained to the advertising regulatory authority that the campaign was in bad taste and bound to hurt religious sentiment. The adjudicating authority rejected the complaint citing the primacy of “freedom of expression”. Some of the slogans used were:
• There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy yourself.
• You can be good without God.
There were variations too. Two dozen buses in Manhattan, New York, loudly proclaimed: “You don’t have to believe in God to be a moral or ethical person”. And in an acerbic twist to the Bible’s opening sentence, the slogan used on 25 buses in Chicago was, “In the beginning, Man created God.”
In a retaliatory campaign, the Christian party in London hit back with its own advertisement for God. It said, “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life”. The transport authorities were, of course, delighted that so much ad revenue was coming their way.
The campaign has spread to Canada and Europe and shows signs of travelling further afield. The atheist associations have happily declared that their main objective has been achieved. Should the church want them to authenticate their claims, the argument can easily be turned on its head by asking the church to prove its case. (Excerpts from Mind set: The religion of reason by Prakash Sesh, Times of India Aug 11 2009)
13. INDUS SCRIPT MAY SOON GIVE UP ITS SECRETS: Bharatiya and American researchers are close to breaking the code behind the script of the Indus Valley civilization, which flourished on the Bharat-Pakistan border 4,000 years ago.
The script, found as inscriptions on numerous objects dating from that period, has puzzled archaeologists ever since Harappa was discovered in 1842.
A study, a joint effort of Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Chennai’s Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the University of Washington, was published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It says there are distinct patterns in the hieroglyphics used by the script, and creates a statistical model for the unknown language.
“The model provides insights into the underlying grammatical structure of the script,” said lead author Rajesh Rao, associate professor of computer science, University of Washington.
14. TEACHING BHARATANATYAM IN PAKISTAN: For the last five decades, 80-year-old Indu Mitha has been teaching the beautiful and deeply religious Bharatanatyam dance to Pakistanis. Dance, it seems, can cross cultural and religious boundaries.
Teaching traditional Bharatiya dance in Pakistan required a delicate balancing act, which she successfully performed along her dance steps. Dance was considered “haraam” - or un Islamic - during the tenure of President Zia ul Haq, when a “no objection certificate” was needed for every performance. (Courtesy: Hindu Press International)
15. DURGA VAHINI ACTIVISTS TIE RAKHI TO SOLDIERS AT WAGAH AND POONCH BORDERS: Durga Vahini activists tied rakhi to the soldiers at Wagha border in Punjab and Poonch border in Jammu & Kashmir which boosted the morale of the soldiers. When some of the soldiers tried to give some money to the activists they said, "We want united Bharat, not this money. Only you soldiers can do it." The 30 member-delegation of Durga Vahini visited Wagah border on July 31 and Poonch border on August 3. After tying rakhi to the soldiers they also visited Budha Amarnath and prayed Lord Shiva to protect the Bharatiya borders. This delegation returned to Delhi on August 6 and tied rakhi to the Delhi police constables and officials in some Police Stations.
16. SANSKRIT SAMBHASHAN SHIVIR IN KOLKATA: Daxinbang unit of Samskrit Bharati organised ten-day Sanskrit Sambhashan Vargas at ten different places in Kolkata from July 16 to 26. About 200 persons including students, teachers and people from almost every section of the society attended the classes, which were conducted for two hours everyday from 6pm to 8 pm. The concluding ceremony was organised at Burrabazar Library Hall on July 26.
17. SUSTAINABLE MICRO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT THROUGH COWA SUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENT: Located in Jaipur, a fast developing metro of North-West-Bharat, the Rajasthan Go Seva Sangh presents a scenic bonanza of a beautiful garden under the cover of a green mantle of trees spread over 32 bighas of land. There are about 240 cattle of tharparkar breed, which is one of the best breeds of indigenous cattle. High milk yielding cows, valued oxen and healthy bullocks are being developed through this breed. One ton of organic manure, compost and vermi-compost being produced at center are in good demand. The agricultural production of food, fruits, vegetables and fodder is based on organic manures produced at the center. The land preparations, as well as all agricultural activities, are done with the healthy pair of bullocks. Tractors have not been used at the center for the last nine years.
Bullocks are also employed in electricity generation that is useful in charging of batteries of 12 volt, each to maintain supply of electricity to kitchen and dining hall. The bullocks also support transportation. If converted in terms of monetary gains, one pair of bullocks earns approximately Rs. 200 to 250 per day.
The conversion of biogas into CNG is yet another achievement of center. The biogas is considered an inferior energy source on account of 60:40 ratios of methane and carbon dioxide. The CO2 reduces flammability, and is removed through its dissolution in water. The pure methane is compressed in cylinders as pure CNG. One CNG auto rickshaw plies for the transportation works of the center and leads to a saving of Rs. 300-400 per day on transportation cost. One genset is also operated by CNG produced at the center to run the tube well. The genset does not require mixing of diesel. This is the first “Gober-Gas-CNG” driven vehicle in our country set up in the center with the assistance and guidance of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of Bharat and IIT, Delhi.
The cow urine is equally useful like cow dung, and used for preparing Panchgavya ayurvedic medicines. Baba Balwant Singh Center for Panchgavya Health Care and Research and its laboratory established by the institution provide fresh cow urine free of charge. The 64 types of medicinal and essentially useful items including 17 types of gomutra Ark (essence) combined with medicinal herbs, 11 types of “Ghanabti” tablets are prepared in the center. Around 4000 patients are being treated and benefited every year. Among the beneficiaries are many kidney patients at dylisis stage who got relief by getting rid of regular dylisis process. Besides the medicine, the center markets such as soap, Shampoo, tooth powder, scented stick etc. Panchgavya products worth Rs. 1.50 lakh per month are sold by the institution. About seventy people have got employment in this center. Evidently, the Panchgavya entrepreneurship is a very rewarding venture in rural community. As cottage industry it is a source of employment to every family.
Nutritious and quality feed is prepared at the center, which is a proportionate admixture of beans, khal, choori and jaggery. The feed enhances milk yield and is made available to cattle owners who supply milk to the center just on its production cost. The center produces about 44,000 qts./ year of cattle feed for own use, sale and distribution.
A herbal garden is also located in the premises of center where more than 100 species of medicinal and aromatic plants are under cultivation and conservation. The center has a facility of providing fresh juice and herbal extracts to outdoor and indoor patients of naturopathy and panchgavya hospital. The center has an outlet for sale of nursery plants of aonla, aloe, bael, jamun, ratanjot, mango and giloy etc. The center has a regular routine of a homa, yoga, pranayam, spiritual discourses, interactive meets on topics like organic farming, Panchgavya technology, trainings and symposia. If somebody wants to have a holistic view of the model of development based on indigenous cattle, the Kamdhenu Goshala, Rajasthana Go Seva Sangh, Jaipur is the most ideal place, which is continuously visited by people from Jaipur, other parts of country and foreign countries.
(Excerpts from an article by Bhanwarlal Kothari in Organiser Aug 15 2009. The writer is former chairman of Rajasthan Gou Sewa Ayog. He can be contacted at
18. AT IIMs THIS YEAR: A reality show participant, an actor, an ex-Armyman, a social worker, sportspersons, and entrepreneurs: that's the class of 2009-11 at the IIMs. An eclectic mix of aspirants have qualified for Bharat's premier B-schools this year, busting the stereotype that only people with great academic records crack the IIM entrance test.
Shubhajeet Mazumdar (27), an ex-Armyman, managed to get into IIM-B in his first attempt. He had joined the National Defence Academy after class XII, but could not continue in the Army due to medical reasons. He then decided to pursue management. ``The course will help me prepare to work with society,'' says Shubhajeet, who got calls from four IIMs.
Adamya Chandra (23) was a participant at a reality singing talent show. This mechanical engineer from Lucknow UP cracked CAT in his first attempt and has joined IIM-C. ``Music soothes me. If I need a break from a hectic study schedule, I switch to music. But pursuing MBA was my main goal and studying at IIM is the first step towards a successful career,'' he says.
His batchmate, Abhimanyu Girotra (26) from Delhi, is a talented actor who has done various serials and ads. A BTech grad from NIT-Kurukshetra, he played the boyfriend of Priyanka Mehra, better known as `Chhoti' in season 1 of `Hum Paanch', produced by soap queen Ekta Kapoor. In another serial on missing persons produced by Jackie Shroff, he played Salem, a real-life missing boy. Abhimanyu has also acted in serials like `Yug' and `Ghar ek Mandir'.
IIM-Calcutta has a mixed bag ranging from highly accomplished sportspersons to those involved in massive projects, such as modernizing the Bangladesh railway system, besides student entrepreneurs and those associated with NGOs. Ditto with IIM-Indore, which has students who have excelled in sports to those starting a school. IIM-Bangalore has maths and science Olympiad participants, national level players and armed forces, besides university toppers.
Many like Anshuman Atri, an information science engineer from Bangalore who joined IIM-Indore, have left behind promising careers. Atri joined SAP Labs India as a software developer in 2006. He has worked on mobile software platforms and developed a framework for Windows mobile.
Vikram Khaitan, 25, an economics grad from Gujarat worked with World Bank for a year at the Delhi office. ``The reason for not continuing with World Bank was that I would have had to do a PhD to survive in the place for long,'' he says. Khaitan has taken admission at IIM-C.
His classmate Shekhar Chaudhary, 28, worked in RBI for five years. He has taken study leave to join the course. from RBI. ``Studying management will help to gain more information and knowledge about the financial world,'' he said.
19. HP ACHIEVES ‘TWO CHILDREN PER COUPLE’ AHEAD OF TARGET: The tiny State of Himachal has achieved another milestone by achieving the goal of “two children per couple” ahead of schedule and joined the select States of Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and three Union Territories, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Pondicherry, who had already achieved the TFR target.
“More than 75 per cent villages have accessibility to the facility of a health sub-centre within a distance of three kms, 94.5 per cent villages have access to PHC within 10 kms , about 80 percent of villages have sub-centres located in Government buildings, 83.1 per cent sub-centres have ANM and 70.8 per cent PHCs have at least four beds”, the report released by the Union Ministry of Health said.
20. COMMUNITY RAKSHA BANDAN AT SEATTLE: On August 8th, Raksha Bandhan was held in Balagokulam at Bellevue Seattle. After the usual utsav, tying of rakhis and a bauddhik , all the kids and others met up at the Crossroads Retirement Center . Meaning of Raksha Bandan was explained to the elders. Hemant, Aadithya, and Athulya preformed a skit about the traditional way to tie a rakhi. After that, all the kids got rakhis to tie to the elders. The elders liked to see all the children dressed up in traditional Bharatiya way. To end the meeting, Snehalji sung a song on Raksha Bandan which relaxed everyone. The program was very well received and some elders asked for more events like this one.
21. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Addapa Prasad, Shri Dinesh Agrawal and Shri Dayashankar Dubey from USA. Shri Virendrakumar Harit from France.
Pravas: Dr.Shankar Tatwawadi, samyojak Vishwa Vibhag is back in UK after his pravas to Norway and Denmark. Shri Bheeshmachari, HSS pracharak in Australia is now in Hyderabad.
22. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Natural mildness should be there in the family. Observance of the vows leads to mildness….Right belief should there be amongst family members…. Crookedness and deception cause unhappiness in the family. Straight forwardness and honesty in one’s body, speech and mental activities lead the family to an auspicipus path. Purity, reverence, ceaseless pursuit of knowledge, charity, removal of obstacles that threaten equanimity, service to others – these make the family happy. – Tattvarthasutra 6.18-24
AS an Indian in Ghana, I soon became aware of the country’s Indian community. It was while working on a photo-essay about cross-cultural interactions, especially interracial marriages, that I learnt of the African Hindu Monastery. Now, Ghana is by no means homogenous when it comes to religion. Though predominantly Christian, with Islam being prominent in the north, most Ghanaians still maintain their connections to older traditions of ancestor worship and belief in the spirit world. Hinduism, though, is a foreign and recent entrant, associated with the Sindhi business families who dominate the immigrant Indian population. The presence of an African Hindu community, therefore, came as a surprise. I decided to go and see the place for myself.
The African Hindu Monastery (AHM) is a simple white structure in Odorkor, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital city of Accra. Started in 1975, it is headed by Swami Ghanananda Saraswati. The gentle-voiced Saraswati was born into the traditional African faith. Although he converted to Christianity when both his parents became Christian priests, he continued his search for truth. Attracted by Hindu beliefs and the practice of yoga, he travelled to India. While staying at Swami Sivananda’s ashram in Rishikesh, he decided to embrace Hinduism. At 35, he returned to Ghana and acquired his first disciples, holding lectures to educate Ghanaians about this ancient and foreign religion. Initially, his teachings attracted the literate and the academic – university lecturers and lawyers. Soon, some Indian families started to come. Later, a meeting with one Swami Krishnananda (who was visiting from India) inspired him to set up a monastery “where he could tell people about all that he had learnt in India”.
TODAY, GHANA’S population of 23 million includes 12,500 Hindus, of which 10,000, like their Swami Ghanananda Saraswati, are indigenous Africans. While an older Sindhi temple still exists in Accra (and the Sathya Sais, the Ananda Margis, ISKCON and the Brahma Kumaris are also active), the African Hindu Monastery (AHM) is now Ghana’s largest centre of Hindu worship.
Ghana now has a Hindu population of 12,500, of which as many as 10,000 are indigenous Africans
The AHM’s iconography and practices provide clues to its hybrid origins. Its nonexclusionist attitude is apparent from the picture of Jesus alongside the Hindu gods on the main mantelpiece, as well as images of spiritual leaders from other religions. There are even images of secular leaders from India. The monastery’s members also believe that the Supreme God is known by other names, such as Yahweh and Allah.
While it identifies itself with Vedic philosophy, with Vishnu as the primary deity, there is an adjoining temple for Shiva. In fact, the day starts with a Shiva Abhishek, followed by an aarti, conducted by the Swami or one of his disciples. This is followed by a havan (fire sacrifice) and the reciting of the Hanuman Chalisa. In contrast to the specially commissioned havans in most Indian temples, all those present can pour a spoonful of oil into the sacred fire. Bhajans in Hindi — sung exquisitely in a Ghanaian accent — might follow. Later, a Vedic text might be discussed, either in English or in a Ghanaian dialect.
The AHM is not just accommodating of multiple religious traditions but also open to people of all races, classes and communities. Indian worshippers are not only members of the dominant Sindhi community, but also recent immigrants: managers and contract labour alike. But most worshippers are Africans, again from different professions and backgrounds. When I asked a disciple about the group’s opinion of the caste system, he pointed out that there is no society in the world that does not break its people up into the privileged and the unprivileged, be it through profession, ancestry or race. Ghanaian Hindus like him, however, are clear that people have an equal right to education, the means to a good life and most importantly, religion.
Some have given their children Hindu names like Rama or Krishna after a naming ceremony
CONTRARY TO its name, the monastery has only one monk. Saraswati explains, “Hinduism is a new thing [in West Africa], and I do not want to make somebody a monk who later on abandons monkhood. It would bring a bad name to me and to Hinduism.” Believers who want to become disciples enroll in a six-week residential course, after which they are initiated. The transition to Hinduism is a gradual one. For instance, an African Hindu would continue to have a Christian or Muslim first name and a traditional African last name – for example, Daniele Otchere. But there are disciples who have given their children Hindu first names like Rama or Krishna after a Hindu naming ceremony. Hindu rituals at marriage and cremation (rather than burial) at death are also beginning to be adopted, though not obligatory.
The monastery likes disciples to pray and perform pujas at home. In fact, the performance of rituals is seen as essential to being Hindu. Sometimes, new believers’ desire to perform Hindu-ness is so great that it feels like they are play-acting – like the time when several people fell at the feet of a visiting dignitary to show respect ‘in the traditional Hindu manner’. But then, ritual is often the embodied route to faith. -- (From Tehelka Magazine, August 15, 2009)