27 January, 2010

8 crore people seek ban on cow slaughter

The Times of India, 31st January, 2010

A delegation of religious & spiritual leaders from all faiths on Sunday presented a memorandum - signed by over eight crore people - to President Pratibha Patil, demanding complete ban on Cow slaughter in India and creation of a separate Ministry for protection and promotion of Indian cow breeds.

Matter of urgency to save the Cow - Sri Sri

Above: Its a matter of urgency to save the Indian Cow say Poojya Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji & other prominent Saints

16 January, 2010

Kumbh: What it means to take a holy dip

Raman Nanda, Global Post

The Kumbh festival along the sacred Ganges river means something different to each of the millions of pilgrims who attend.

Sixty million pilgrims can’t be wrong. But even so, I questioned the point of dousing myself with holy water from the Ganges that looked muddy and uninviting.

It was 2001, and I was living at the Mahakumbh grounds in the north Indian town of Prayag as part of the U.K.-based Channel 4 television team covering the year’s kumbh festival, which is an ancient Hindu gathering featuring holy bathing, prayer and devotional music along the banks of sacred rivers.

The Kumbh festival, which begins again this week, is held every third year. It rotates among four cities: Prayag (near modern day Allahabad), Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. This week, an estimated 30 million pilgrims - or three times the population of Los Angeles - will gather in Haridwar, for a “small” three-month kumbh. The duration of the festival, which has been called the largest gathering of humanity in the world, is dictated by planetary alignment and varies from one kumbh to the other.

The full or Purna Kumbh, which occurs every 12 years in Prayag at the confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers, attracted 60 million the last time it was held in 2001.

Then, a tent city stretched for miles. The food was strictly vegetarian. Alcohol was taboo. Marijuana, though not legal, wasn’t exactly frowned upon. You could smoke a joint with the myriad holy men scattered about. The whole affair had the relaxed ambience of a village festival attended by the poor of India.

Peering over the river’s edge, the water looked dirty. I could imagine it was freezing, though each and every pilgrim who emerged from the opaque waters had a glow of happiness and contentment. One is told that the Ganges, originating in the Himalayas and flowing all the way to the Bay of Bengal beyond Calcutta, is a sacred river.

Back at the Prayag campsite, I asked a priest about the ritual associated with this so-called holy dip.

I was told to stand in the river. Collect some water with joined palms and throw it back over my head as an offering to my ancestors, he said. The priest told me to think about my loved ones as I dunked my head beneath the water. It all seemed simple enough.

On one particularly auspicious January morning, I decided to join the stream of humanity headed for the river. Wedged between bodies on all sides, I was carried like a leaf atop the current to the river where I managed to find standing space in the ice-cold water.

I made the symbolic offering of Ganges water to my ancestors. I cupped water in my hands and threw it back over my head. Then, I dunked myself in the river wondering if my soul would be cleansed of sins.

I thought about my mother who had died many years ago. I had accompanied my father to Haridwar soon after her death to immerse her ashes in the Ganges. Warmth surged in my heart as I recalled my mother’s smiling face.

I took another dip, this time for my grandfather. I recalled how as a child I used to snuggle in his bed to hear his enthralling stories based in ancient Hindu scriptures that he blended with the rural landscape of the Punjab, which is now in Pakistan and is where he migrated from. His ashes too had been immersed in this river about 40 years ago. The water no longer felt cold or dirty.

More dips, and my thoughts turned to friends and loved ones: my father, children and wife. I thought about my very first crush. One day, my father will die and I’ll bring his ashes to this river, I thought. As my son will one day bring my ashes here. My teenage son too, it struck me, will die one day; his children will bring his ashes.

Every time I raised my head above water, I noticed hundreds of thousands taking dips. I felt like a speck in the story of the Earth. I wondered if everyone around me was thinking the same thing? I felt small, but not vulnerable. I was comfortable with thoughts of death. My body felt light.

The experience of being a part of a mass of humanity is surely a subjective one. Mark Twain, after attending the kumbh in 1895, said: “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination.”


14 January, 2010

Over 1,00,000 sing Vande Mataram together

Above: Inspired by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, 2750 Hindustani Classical vocalists & over 1,00,000 strong audience sing India's National Song 'Vande Mataram'

07 January, 2010

Global Warming & Vegetarian Food

Global warming has reached alarmingly dangerous proportions and governments all over the world now are taking measures to contain it. It is our collective responsibility to join in these efforts in all our capacities to save our precious planet.

A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."(1) Everybody today is aware that the environmental cost for producing a meat-based diet is monumentally higher than a vegetarian one.(2,3) These costs have escalated to enormous proportions and now pose as very disturbing details.(4,5,6)

Additionally, more and more people are increasingly becoming aware of the unhygienic and cruel practises involved in producing meat. Apart from the horrible treatment given to animals reared for meat, they are also injected with harmful chemicals and hormones to add bulk to their bodies(7), which show strong signs of being poisonous for human consumption(8,9). Consequently, health agencies are also recommending people to reduce meat consumption(10).

It has been established that if a small fraction of the population brings down the meat consumption, by even a little bit, it will do wonders for the environment. Leading researchers all over the world have started recommending a vegetarian diet.(11,12)


(1) Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options is a United Nations report, released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) on 29 November 2006 that "aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation".

(2) New Scientist, 18 July 2007 by Daniele Fanelli. Magazine Issue 2613. The article summarises the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues. Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy. In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

(3) Water Inputs in California Food Production by Marcia Kreith Davis, CA, September 27, 1991.

(4) Livestock and Climate Change by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, November 2009. According to earlier estimates, 7,516 million metric tons per year of CO2 equivalents (CO2e), or 18 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions were attributed to livestock. But in this report, analysis shows that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.

(5) Deforestation in the Amazon by Rhett A. Butler, www.mongabay.com. Between May 2000 and August 2006, Brazil has lost nearly 150,000 square kilometers of forest - an area larger than Greece - of which 80% is used to raise livestock.

(6) Livestock’s Long Shadow, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2006 In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.

(7) "Meet your meat" is a film, available at www.meat.org that, graphically, documents the inhumane and unhygienic treatment that animals are put through before being slaughtered.

(8) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 70 percent of food poisoning is caused by contaminated animal flesh. Amy Ellis Nutt, “In the Soil, Water, Food, Air,” The [Newark] Star-Ledger, 8 Dec. 2003.

(9) USDA researchers have found that “eating 2 ounces of chicken per day - the equivalent of a third to a half of a boneless breast - exposes a consumer to 3 to 5 micrograms of inorganic arsenic, the element’s most toxic form.” Dennis O’Brien, “Arsenic Used in Chicken Feed May Pose Threat,” The Baltimore Sun, 4 May 2004.

(10) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, also known as the Expert Report, was an expert report published by the World Cancer Research Fund global network in 2007. The report recommends avoiding processed meat for reducing cancer risk.

(11) Lord Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, predicts that eating meat could in the future become as socially unacceptable as drink driving. The Telegraph, 27 Oct 2009.

(12) Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, said people should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change. The Observer, 7 Sep 2008


06 January, 2010

Youths rally in Kashmir for return of Pandits

Naseer Ganai, India Today

For the first time since insurgency began in Jammu and Kashmir, a rally was held on Saturday demanding the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.

Kashmiri youth having no political background assembled at Pratab Park in Srinagar Lal Chowk, carrying placards that called for the return of the Pandits.

"There is a widespread sentiment among Kashmiri Muslims that Pandits should return. We have decided to give voice to the popular sentiment," said Jehangir Raina, a software engineer.

He said the campaign didn't have links with any political group. "Pain is pain, whether it is of Muslims, Jews or Hindus. We want to show solidarity with the Pandits who have suffered for years," Raina said.

The youths have named their organisation Restructuring Economic Assets and Social Obligations of the Nation, or REASON. The REASON, Raina said, was an advocacy group of young professionals and would take up various causes in public interest.

The group said a 30 minute sit-in would be organised on the first Saturday of each month to show solidarity with the Pandits. The group, however, opposed the demand of a separate homeland for the Pandits.

The state government, too, seems to be gearing up to facilitate the return of the Pandits. On Wednesday, chief minister Omar Abdullah approved the creation of 3,000 posts for unemployed migrants.