The most auspicious is the Mondays in Shravan month which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and many people observe the famous Somvar Vrat. The Shravan Month in traditional Hindu calendar followed in North Bharat in 2010 begins on July 27 while in South it begins on August 10.
Legend has it that the Samudra Manthan took place in this month and Lord Shiva drank the poison HalaHala to save the world and as a result of it the throat of Shiva became blue in color and he came to be known by the name of Neelakanth.
2. HINDU ELDERS CELEBRATE MATARIKI (MAORI NEW YEAR): Hindu Elders Foundation, a division of Hindu Council of New Zealand, celebrated Matariki 2010 at the Hindu Heritage Centre, Auckland on 27th June 2010.
Almost 100 Hindu Elders, guests and a number of Maori Elders (Kamatua) from various Marae participated in this celebration including Mr. Dennis Henson (Hoani Waititi Marae), Mr. Harold Atkinson and Ms Bubbles Munroe (Ngati Kahungunu).
The ceremony started with the traditional Hindu way of lighting of the lamp by the invited guests and members of Hindu Elders, followed by a Hindu prayer to Lord Ganesha. Mr. Dennis Henson and Ms Bubbles Munroe did the karakia.
“During Matariki we celebrate our unique place in the world. We give respect and admiration to our mother earth Papatuanuku. Throughout Matariki we learn about those who came before us. Matariki celebrates the diversity of life., Matariki is our Aotearoa Pacific New Year”. This was what Mr Pravin Patel, Patron of Hindu Elders Foundation, said while speaking about Matariki in Maori language.
He also elaborated on similarities of the beliefs of the Maori and the Hindu from the Social Anthropology and Sociology studies conducted by a migrant, and comparison on Maori and Hindu worship of God.
Mr. Harold Atkinson spoke on the significance of Matariki. For the Maori of New Zealand, Matariki is the celestial signal of an ending and a beginning. A prayer was recited in Maori language and in Sanskrit.
3. ISRO LAUNCHES PSLV C-15: Bouncing back from the setback of the unsuccessful launch of GSLV-D3 on April 15, Indian Space Research Organisation on July 13 sent PSLV-C15 soaring into space to place in orbit Cartosat-2B, a remote sensing satellite with applications in mapping and infrastructure planning.
The PSLV injected the 694-kg Cartosat-2B and four other satellites into orbit. Mission director Kunhi Krishnan said, "The mission to inject five satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit was precise. All the four stages performed well. Performance of the computers was good and all the events of ignition and separation happened at the predicted time. The satellite system is normal.''
PSLV-C15 also launched Algeria's 116-kg ALSAT-2A, Canada's 6.5 kg NLS-6.1 and AISSAT-1, Switzerland's NLS-6.2 TISAT, and picosatellite STUDSAT designed by 35 undergraduate engineering students from seven colleges in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
4. BABA RAMDEV SPELLBINDS HUGE AUDIENCE AT FISI CONFERENCE: The Friends of India Society International (FISI) organized a national program in Washington DC in which the keynote speaker and the chief guest was Pujya Swami Ramdevji, on June 26, 2010 at the Tyson’s Corner Marriott Hotel.
The event was presided by Dr. Bhishma K. Agnihotri, former Global Ambassador of Bharat. As the International President of FISI, Dr. Agnihotri hailed Baba Ramdevji as “Swami Vivekanand-in-Action” who has dedicated his entire life in selflessly serving Mother Bharat for 18 hours a day, every day of the year.
Swami Ramdevji began his address by chanting “Om” three times, followed by the Gayatri Mantra. He mesmerized the audience for nearly two hours and a half talking about the essence of what his movement is all about. He described Bharat’s glorious past at the pinnacle of world economy and its height of spiritual development, millennia before there was any civilization in the West.
Swamiji extolled the NRIs (non-resident Indians) for bringing fame and fortune to the country of their origin. He wanted all NRIs to participate in whatever way they can to Bharat Swabhiman Movement and work towards moving Bharat forward. The vote of thanks was given by Dr. Adapa Prasad, the event co-coordinator.
5. MA. SUDARSHANJI’S US TOUR: Ma. Sudarshanji, former Sarsanghchalak of RSS was on a month long US tour from June 8 – July 6. For first few days, he stayed at his nephew’s house and attended some family functions. He also visited shakhas on weekends and also SSV’s at Seattle and Jagannath Dham. In his speeches, he emphasized the need of using Bharatiya languages, Hindi during the daily chores. He also attended a function organized by FISI.
At Los Angels, he had a bouddhik karyakram attended by about 80 swayamsevaks/sevikas.
The bouddhik detailed Doctorji's life along with the growth of sangh and how shakha has led to "sarvangeen vikas" in Hindu society. The Q&A session was unique in its own way. It revealed so many different details on different subjects.
In answering a question about gou gram yatra, he explained in detail some organic farming techniques and the history behind chemical fertilizers and why they cause harm.
6. 795 PEOPLE RETURN TO HINDU FOLD: A total of 795 people belonging to 160 Vanvasi families returned home at a function organised in Jhabua on June 16. VHP general secretary Dr Pravin Togadia welcomed all the persons by showering flower petals on them.
Addressing the gathering he said the Christian missionaries have been converting Hindus for the last 300 years but they could hardly convert a few crore people so far. Mahamandaleshwar Shri Radhe Baba, Swami Lakshmandas Maharaj, Swami Amritaram Maharaj also addressed the gathering. Vanvasi saint Swami Khub Singh Maharaj played an instrumental role in the success of the function.
7. VHP CONDEMNS KILLING OF HINDU YOUTH LEADER IN NEPAL: “Vishva Hindu Parishad unequivocally condemns the gruesome killing of Sri Kashinath Tiwari – youth leader of the Vishwa Hindu Maha Sangh (World Hindu Federation), Nepal by armed Muslim Jihadists who shot him dead inside a temple complex at Birgunj, Nepal on June 26, 2010. Sri Tiwari was targeted as he was one who actively campaigned for restoration of the “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu nation) status of Nepal and one Jalim Miyan has been apprehended in connection with this murder”, said Swami Vigyananand, Joint General Secretary, Vishva Hindu Parishad (International Coordination) in a press statement.
8. 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF EMERGENCY OBSERVED: THE 35th anniversary of the dark and draconian Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, was observed at a function in Thiruvananthapuram on June 25, 2010. Sangh and Jana Sangh activists who had participated in the Satyagraha and arrested during the Emergency were honoured. Prant Sanghachalak Shri PEB Menon honoured Shri P Parameswaran, then Jana Sangh Vice-President, A minute silence was observed for six MISA detainee swayamsevaks who died recently. Olivile thelinalangal, a compilation of underground literature published by Kurukshetra was released by veteran RSS Pracharak Shri Ranga Hari. Senior BJP leader Shri O Rajagopal presided over the meeting,
9. NRIS SHINE AS QUEEN ANNOUNCES HONOURS LIST: Kartar Singh Lalvani, founder of pharmaceutical major Vitabiotics in Britain, is among the several NRIS who have found a place on Queen Elizabeth II’s Birthday Honours List announced. Lalvani, whose family fled to Mumbai from Karachi during Partition, was chosen for his services to the pharmaceutical industry and charity in London.
Besides, 18 other NRIs also figure on the list. Anil Kumar Bhanot has been honoured for services to the Hindu Community, while Janti Champaneri figures for services to Local Government in Birmingham, and Kailash Chand Malhotra for services to healthcare.
10. JOLT TO ARYAN-DRAVIDIAN DIVIDE THEORY: The intelligensia and even the politicians were in for shock at the World Classical Tamil Conference here on Friday, when a Finland-based Indologist turned the spotlight on a Dravidian-Aryan continuum while demolishing the Aryan-Dravidian divide as a myth.
In a landmark presentation that was a complete turnaround from singing paeans to the 86-year-old Dravidian patriarch M Karunanidhi and Tamil culture’s glory, renowned Indologist, Prof Asko Parpola, presenting the conclusions of his three decades-long research on ‘A Dravidian Solution to the Indus Script Problem’, told a stunned gathering that “an opening to the secrets of the Indus Script (which is yet to be deciphered) has been achieved”.
Older forms of Tamil, Kannada and other ‘Dravidian languages’ in his firm opinion hold the key to take forward this finding that the underlying language of the Indus Valley Civilisation “was proto-Dravidian”.
The best way to “read” the signs in ‘thousands of short texts’ of the Indus script was through old Tamil, Prof Parpola, of the Helsinki University in Finland, drove home in his breathtaking 90-minute talk.
Proof of hypothesis
As proof of his hypothesis, Prof Parpola correlated several ‘pictograms’ found in Indus Valley inscribed with ‘Harappan’ stoneware bangles with words like ‘Muruku’ (meaning arm-ring/bangle) from old Tamil literature.
“This (old Tamil) is the only ancient Dravidian source not much contaminated by Indo-Aryan languages and traditions,” Prof. Parpola, the first recipient of the ‘Kalaignar Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award’, argued.
Pointing out that ‘radiocarbon dating’ has fixed the period of the ‘mature Harappan phase’, when the Indus Script was used to 2600-1900 BCE, he said the ‘Indus Civilisation’ collapsed many centuries before hymns were composed in ‘Vedic Sanskrit’ around 1000 BCE.
However, the rich religious/cultural heritage in South Asia till now has been preserved both by the speakers of Dravidian languages (predominantly in South India) and the people of North India, Prof. Parpola emphasised, to demolish the myth of a clear Aryan-Dravidian divide.
Dr Parpola’s work left the top DMK leadership seated in front, nonplussed, kindling them to rethink the Aryan-Dravidian divide issue.
Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, though, had to leave half-way, when the news came in that the Congress Legislature party leader in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, D Sudarshanam, who had come for the WCTC, had been rushed to a private hospital here after he suffered a heart attack.
(Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/77496 jolt-aryan-dravidian-divide-theory.html)
11. SEDITION CHARGE AGAINST THREE HINDRAF ACTIVISTS RETAINED: A sedition charge against three Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) activists for allegedly inciting racial hatred was retained when the Court of Appeal struck out their appeal.
A three-man quorum comprising Justices Hasan Lah, Ahmad Maarop and Sulaiman Daud unanimously upheld the High Court's decision in ordering lawyers P Uthayakumar, younger brother P Waytha Moorthy and V Ganabatirau to stand trial on the charge at the Klang Sessions Court.
One of their counsel, M Manoharan, however, told reporters after the verdict, that they would bring the matter up for appeal to the Federal Court.
12. BHARAT RANKED SECOND IN GLOBAL MANUFACTURING COMPETENCE: Bharat has been ranked second, ahead of the US and South Korea, in terms of manufacturing competence globally, a report by Deloitte has said.
China, followed by Bharat and South Korea has been ranked first, second and third respectively in the 2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index; a result of the collaboration between Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the US Council on Competitiveness.
The report notes that China's ascent to the top of the list is not surprising. "Perhaps more surprising is that Bharat is now positioned at number two and gaining an even stronger foothold on that position over the next five years," the report said.
"The country is also rapidly expanding its capabilities in engineering design and development and embedded software development, which form an integral part of many modern-day manufactured products," it said.
Projecting the competitiveness ranking after five years, the report says while China with 10 points would still remain on the top, Bharat would inch closer to China with 9.01 points.
13. NO RSS FUNCTIONARY QUESTIONED - CBI: The CBI on July 13 said it has not questioned any RSS functionary during its ongoing probe into Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blast cases.
CBI Director Ashwani Kumar said that the reports about the agency questioning RSS leaders in connection with the terror attacks in Mecca Masjid and Ajmer were not correct.
Meanwhile, the RSS said its functionaries will "cooperate" with agencies probing alleged links of Hindu groups in certain bomb blast cases, but termed as "baseless" suggestions that some of its members were involved in the crimes.
"As long as investigations go on in a professional manner and they want cooperation, (RSS) functionaries are ready to extend cooperation," Sangh leader Ram Madhav told reporters.
But at the same time he said that if investigations into the blasts took a "political turn and if vendetta becomes the motive, the RSS will have to take stock of the situation."
Madhav termed as "baseless" reports that certain senior RSS functionaries were involved in the incidents and were being interrogated.
14. A ‘GREEN’ MEMORIAL TO MAHATMA AT DANDI: Gujarat has achieved tremendous success in mangrove restoration work in the last 10 years. The area under mangroves, essential for protection of fragile ecology of the coastal region, has gone up from about 200 sq km to nearly 1,000 sq km in the last 10 years.
This was disclosed on by Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh soon after launching what he called an environment-friendly memorial at this historic site where a pinch of salt picked by Mahatma Gandhi had shaken the British rule in 1930.
Jairam said that the project, christened Green Action for National Dandi Heritage Initiative (GANDHI) Memorial, is unique in itself as it would not be a brick and cement structure but a ‘bio-memorial’ that Mahatma Gandhi would have approved.
Instead of the usual brick and cement structure, the GANDHI Memorial to be built at Dandi would have four components —- conservation of the coast and coastal resources, adoption of nature-based development resources and promotion of integrated village and community development, explained State Principal Secretary (Forest & Environment) SK Nanda.
15. DR TATHAGAT TULSI, 22, BECOMES PROFESSOR TULSI AT IIT BOMBAY: He completed high school at the age of 9, had a B.Sc at 10, an M.Sc in Physics at 12, and a PhD in Quantum Computing from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, at 21. In 2003, Time named him among the world's seven most gifted youngsters. Now, at age 22, Patna-born prodigy Tathagat Avtar Tulsi has become possibly the youngest assistant professor at IIT.
Tulsi will teach Physics at IIT Bombay from July 19, having chosen the institute over Waterloo University, Canada, and the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), Bhopal, both of which had offered him jobs.
"I turned down Waterloo despite an impressive pay package because I do not want to go abroad now," Tulsi told The Indian Express over the phone from Patna. "My dream is to set up a lab focused on quantum computation in Bharat, and one day help develop a largescale quantum computation-based supercomputer. IIT Bombay offers me these possibilities
16. RAMSHANKAR AGNIHOTRI IS NO MORE: Noted Hindi journalist and former Sangh Pracharak Ramshankar Agnihotri passed away at Escort Hospital in Raipur on July 7 following a brief illness. He was 85.
Ramshankar Agnihotri was president of Pandit Deendayal Research Centre at Kushabhau Thakre University of Journalism and Mass Communication. Ramshankar ji was among the Sangh Pracharaks who motivated some very highly dedicated and committed youth to join the Sangh. One among them is former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan.
Born on April 14, 1926 at Seoni Malva in Madhya Pradesh’s Hosangabad district, he became Mandla district Pracharak of RSS in 1944 and held various responcibilities like Mahakoshal prant prachark and media including that of Hindusthan Samachar and Panchajanya. He was cremated at Raipur in presence of various political dignitaries and large number of karyakartas..
17. BHARAT FOILS DANISH FIRM'S BIO PIRACY BID: After stopping the Chinese from patenting pudina's health benefits, Bharat has now foiled a major bio piracy bid by a Danish company to patent ginger, jeera (cumin), onion and turmeric's fat burning properties.
Claras ApS, a Danish company, on September 19, 2007 filed a patent application at the European Patent Office, saying its invention of turmeric, cumin, ginger and onion as slimming agents was novel. But the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), with the help of Bharat's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), dug out formulations from ancient Ayurveda texts like Astanga Samgraha, Yogaratnakarah, Yogatarangini and Gadanigrahah dating back to the 5th century, which contained formulations involving their use for ages in Bharat, as fat burners.
Director of TKDL Dr V K Gupta submitted a letter to EPO on August 25, 2009 to inform the examiners that all the four have long been known in Bharatiya systems of traditional medicine for their use as slimming agents or fat destroyers.
"Following Bharat's intervention, the Danish company was not left with any option except to withdraw its patent and claims. Accordingly, the company decided to withdraw its three-year-old application," a health ministry official said.
18. BHARATIYA CENTRES TO LEAD IN CLOUD COMPUTING: GOOGLE’s engineering initiatives in cloud computing (enterprise solutions) will be led by its centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The company’s president for enterprise, Dave Girouard, who was in Bangalore, said Bharat would be a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for the company in cloud computing.
“Bharat will become the largest enterprise development centre for us,” he said. Enterprise work also happens in Google’s centres in Mountain View in California, Kirkland in the state of Washington, and Stockholm.
19. “LUCRATIVE STONE-PELTING BUSINESS” - GET UP TO RS 300 DAILY FOR THROWING STONES AT JAWANS: Stone-pelting, which has become a menace for the security forces in the Kashmir valley, has become an organised crime and a thriving business.
Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said there are as many as four major stone-pelters’ organisations active in the Valley, proving to be a nightmare for the security forces. “Jammu and Kashmir Stone-pelters’ Association, Stone-pelters’ Association of Kashmir Valley, I Am A Stone-pelter and Stone Throwers are the four organisations active in the Valley for the past couple of years,” they said.
These organisations allegedly recruit the youth and pay them at the rate of about Rs 150 to Rs 300 per day for throwing stones at the security forces and disturbing the normal life in the Valley.
What is perplexing for the officials is that the administration and police in the Valley are in the know of this “lucrative stone-pelting business” but have not taken any action against them, they added.
Stone-pelting, which started from Nauhatta in Srinagar in the wake of Amarnath land dispute in June 2008, has not only created a law and order problem but also taken a toll on the security forces. On July 4, Sunil Pawar, a constable of
CRPF’s 162 Battalion, lost his left eye after being hit by a stone. He is recuperating at the Army’s Base Hospital in Srinagar.
So far, 1,875 CRPF personnel have been injured, with 211 of them becoming victims since the latest spate of stone-pelting started on June 11. Sources said the local police had even intercepted communications of the LeT on the ways in which to build up the agitation through stone-pelting.
Meanwhile, Intelligence agencies have found that the stone pelters were funded from across the border through money transfer agencies, like Western Union, via Dubai. “It is not easy to track them, as they dispatch money through small amounts. As the transactions are below Rs10 lakh, it is not easy to keep a watch always. The money is transferred to agents in small lots. It is an open secret that stone-pelters are hired for Rs 300 per day by these local agents. State police should bring these unscrupulous elements before the law,” sources said. -- Kumar Shakti Shekhar New Delhi - Daily Pioneer, July 8 2010.
20. BHARAT EMERGES AS A LEADING INVESTOR IN UK: Bharat has emerged as one of the biggest investors in UK in terms of projects in 2009-10. “Bharat is a hugely important source of investment for the UK,” said Andrew Cahn, the chief executive of UK Trade & Investment.
This would maintain a trend, since, in the previous financial year (2008-09), Bharat was ranked second as investor under the same measurement, ahead of Japan and just behind the US. There were 108 project investments from Bharat, which created 4,139 jobs. More than 700 Bharatiya companies have investments in the UK, two-thirds of these in the ICT/software category. FDI from Bharat amounted to £3.5 billion or nearly Rs 28,000 crore by 2008-end.
21. BHARAT TO GROW 9.5% IN 2010: The International Monetary Fund (IM ) raised Bharat's growth forecast for 2010 to 9.5%, stating that favourable financing conditions and robust corporate profits will accelerate economic expansion. The multilateral lender hiked its growth projection from the earlier estimate of 8.8% it made in April. Recently, PM Manmohan Singh had said the country's economy is expected to grow by 8.5% for the financial year ending March 31, 2011. In the last fiscal, the economy expanded 7.4%.
22. FRESH BATCH OF 2,209 PILGRIMS LEFT JAMMU FOR AMARNATH YATRA: A fresh batch of 2,209 pilgrims left the base station Yatri Bhawan here for Shri Amarnath cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas, an official spokesman said in Jammu. The two-month-long Amarnath pilgrimage, which commenced on July 1, is going on smoothly, sources said, adding that administration has made all arrangements to ensure smooth conduct of yatra. As many as 50 companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed to ensure security for yatris during 55-day-long pilgrimage. Amid tension and violence in the Kashmir Valley, the number of Hindu pilgrims who have reached the Amarnath shrine in the Himalayas has crossed the 100,000 mark.
23. BHARATIYA-AMERICAN WINS ONCOLOGY AWARD: A Bhartiyan-American oncologist has won a USD 450,000 award instituted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology for his unique patient-oriented approach to colorectal cancer research.
Sanjay Goel, a researcher at the Montefiore Medical Centre and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has been presented with the award at a function in Chicago recently. Goel is one of three recipients of the award, which is presented annually to physicians who have five to 10 years of experience and are full-time faculty members in a clinical setting at an academic medical centre.
24. NHSF IN SEARCH OF ROOTS: A team of 6 members of National Hindu Students Forum UK successfully completed 3-week tour of Bharat from June 20 – July 11. The team comprised of Sunil Pala, Dijesh Patel, Dr.Rajeev Chandegra, Chitra Shah, Keerti Patel and Seeta Shah. ‘ROOTS’ was a program of Sewa International to visit various places which reveal Bharat’s culture and heritage to the students who are born and brought up outside Bharat.
The team participated Sindhu Darshan festival in Leh, had a glimpse of situation in Shrinagar, visited Vaishnodevi etc. During their week long stay in Chitrakoot, the team members could get first hand experience about village life, problems and efforts by institutions like DRI to uplift these weaker sections. Overall, it was a successful tour fulfilling the mission of NHSF to find ‘ROOTS’.
25. MALAYSIA'S HINDU-BUDDHIST CIVILISATION SPREAD OVER 1,000 SQ KM: Excavation at a Hindu-Buddhist civilisation site in Malaysia that dates back to the fifth century indicates that it was spread over 1,000 sq km and not 400 sq km as thought earlier.
A team of Malaysian archaeologists discovered ancient furnaces for iron smelting in Jiniang, Kedah, 30 km from the Bujang Valley site near Merbok, Kedah state.
'This means the Bujang Valley civilisation area encompassed about 1,000 sq km - three times the size of Penang island - and not 400 sq km as thought before,' said Mokhtar Saidin, who led a team of researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
Saidin said the team found complexes such as ritual sites and industries of early civilisation in Bujang Valley that was based on the iron industry.
After dating samples of iron smelting sites, he said an early civilisation which was probably based on animism existed there between the first and fifth century. But from the fifth century to the 14th century, the area was a thriving Hindu and Buddhist civilisation, he added.
26. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: NHSF – ROOTS members. Pravas: Dr.Shankar Tatwawadi, samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will be going to UK by July end. Shri Ravikumar, sah samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will tour Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong in July-August.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The light of knowledge is fully capable of destroying the darkness of ignorance. This also helps us in overcoming all the difficulties and in achieving success in all our endeavours. – Sama Veda
JAI SHREE RAM
EPIC REAFFIRMATION OF HINDU-BUDDHIST UNITY
CHANDAN MITRAShivraj Singh Chouhan’s recent mission to Sri Lanka celebrated the living legend of Ramayana and reinforced the amity of two Indic faiths
Our arrival in Sri Lanka on Friday, June 25, coincided with a particularly auspicious occasion. Nearly 2,300 years ago on this full moon night, Emperor Ashoka’s children Mahendra and Sanghamitra reached the shores of this island to spread the message of the Buddha and extend the civilisational boundary of their legendary father’s empire.
It is a public holiday here and the capital city of Colombo wore a festive look. Travelling as a member of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s team, our hosts, particularly the amiable Federal Minister Dinesh Gunawardene, repeatedly reminded us of the historical significance of the date during the reception at the airport.
The Chief Minister was quick to point out that his native district is Vidisha, where the Buddhist pilgrimage of Sanchi is located and it was precisely from there that Ashoka’s children had embarked upon their journey to Sri Lanka.
The following morning we travelled by helicopter first to Sita Eliya, on the outskirts of the fabled Ashok Vatika and then to Divrumpula, the spot where Lord Rama’s wife undertook her first agni-pariksha (trial by fire) after being rescued from Ravana’s captivity. It is interesting to observe how conflicting legends meet and merge in this assimilative sub-continent. Although Rama vanquished the king of Sri Lanka and destroyed Ravana’s golden capital before slaying him, Sita is universally worshipped here. A temple to her stands at Ashok Vatika, the garden where she was held Ravana’s prisoner. And now a magnificent temple will be built at the site of the agni-pariksha, under the aegis of the Mahabodhi Society in collaboration with the revered Hindu Swami, Dayanand Saraswati.
The Ramayana is a living legend in Sri Lanka as in most parts of South-East Asia. Even in Muslim-majority Indonesia Ramayana performances are routine and Ramlila shows are held with greater fanfare than in India. In Hindu-dominated Bali, they still observe Kartik Purnima as Bali Yatra — commemorating the annual journey by traders from Odisha to that faraway island.
The celebration of Mahendra-Sanghamitra’s arrival in Sri Lanka or Bali Yatra prove not only the deep civilisational connectivity between India and its cultural domain in the East, but also the commitment with which people outside our country perpetuate that connection as part of their history. Unfortun- ately, a perverse interpretation of secularism in India classifies observance of such occasions as obscurantist and communal!
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister was invited to Sri Lanka for two reasons, first to participate in the bhoomi pujan of the new Sita temple and second, finalise plans to promote Sanchi as an upcoming international Buddhist destination.
A university for the study of Buddhist tenets will soon be built at Sanchi, which is being developed as a major centre of religious tourism. The Madhya Pradesh administration has identified 65 acres of land close to the Sanchi Stupa, a Unesco heritage site, for construction of the Buddhist University.
Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan is keen to get going quickly on the project and proposes to have its foundation stone laid during the annual Buddhist festival at Sanchi in October-November this year.
We got a real feel of assimilation when we reached Divrumpula where Sita is believed to have undertaken her first agni-pariksha. A Buddhist monastery with fine ancient paintings depicting scenes from the Ramayana has stood there for as long as people can remember.
Under a huge banyan tree just outside the building is a small structure commemorating Sita’s trial by fire. Amazingly, the legend has been scrupulously nourished by Sinhala Buddhist monks. The presiding Abbot gave us a guided tour of the complex, explaining its various facets before leading us to the spot just outside its precincts where land has been earmarked for building a magnificent Sita temple.
Under Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s supervision and in close coordination with Sri Lanka's Buddhist clergy, the ground-breaking ceremony was performed with appropriate sobriety amid the chanting of Hindu and Buddhist hymns.
Local people congregated in thousands to witness the historic event and pay their respects to Sita, who despite the quibbles among scholars about her historicity, continues to live in people’s emotions here.
The temple, when completed, will symbolise the civilisational bond between the two countries and also become an example of the harmony with which different faiths can coexist in our extended sub-continent.
The Government of Sri Lanka is currently developing what it calls the Ramayana Trail linking various sites associated with the greatest epic of Asia. It hopes that the trail will soon become not just an added tourist attraction for thousands of Indians who visit the island, but will also draw many devout pilgrims from across the Ram Setu. Indeed the geological formation, which the British named Adam’s Bridge, spanning the narrow, shallow Palk Straits, is so distinctly visible while flying that it seems a travesty that the present regime in Tamil Nadu actually wanted to destroy it to create a passage for small ships!
We learnt that religious-minded people in Sri Lanka still consider their lives unfulfilled without a visit to Jambudweep (ancient name for India), particularly for offering prayers at sites connected with Buddhism such as Kapilvastu, Sarnath (Bodhgaya) and Sanchi. Mr Chouhan promised to develop a Buddhist Circuit within Madhya Pradesh so that pilgrims travelling to Sanchi were also able to easily touch upon other sites associated with the Buddha and Ashoka who made Buddhism the state religion and ensured its spread to the north and east of India.
The brief stay in Sri Lanka was an eye-opener in many ways. We tend to treat Sri Lanka only as a leisure destination, soaking in the sea and sunshine on its fabulous beaches. But there is so much more to that small country, one-fifth the size of Madhya Pradesh with a population of just over two crore. I was deeply impressed by the depth of knowledge and intellectual calibre of its Buddhist clergy, particularly their concern for the preservation of history and our shared culture.
A visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic at Kandy was especially illuminating. The spectacular temple was thronged by multitudes and we had to wait for over one hour before being escorted into the sanctum sanctorum where a tooth of Lord Buddha is preserved inside a shimmering gold casket, taken out only on two occasions in a year. The temple, incidentally, was built by the Hindu king of Kandy centuries ago. The upsurge of devotion we witnessed here and earlier at the Kelaniya temple in Colombo underlined the depth of the island nation’s religiosity.
Our meetings at the Mahabodhi Society complex in Colombo and with the Mahanayake of Sri Lanka’s biggest Buddhist sect in Kandy reaffirmed that different faiths could prosper without hostility or confrontation.
The commonality between the Hindu and Buddhist religions that we discovered is truly a fitting rebuttal to the sectarian and confrontationist approach of some self-styled neo-Buddhist leaders in India who have turned professional Hindu-baiters and seek to drive wedges between two of the greatest Indic faiths. - The Pioneer July 4, 2010.