Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Caste away: Hindu group dwindles in Kashmir

Decades of violence have plagued the disputed land of Kashmir, a volatile region claimed by both India and Pakistan. Now, the Hindu Pandits who once made up the bulk of the population face continued discrimination from the Muslim majority.

­In 1941, the Hindu caste of Pandits made up some 55 per cent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir, a mountainous region in Southeast Asia.   

But ever since 1989, when a Pakistani backed campaign of ethnic cleansing and terror was unleashed by insurgents seeking the establishment of a Muslim state, the Pandit population has dwindled down to virtually nothing.  

Vicky Ganjoo, a Pandit resident whose family’s house was burned down during an intense period of interethnic violence, has witnessed first-hand the mass exodus of his people.  

“In the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of Pandits in Kashmir have migrated out of the area, causing the population to decrease from 100,000 to 3,000. Recently some have started to come back here, but most say that they still face discrimination.”  

During the decades of violence, the Indian government has estimated some 200 Pandits have been killed since the insurgency began. Other organizations, however, have estimated that figure could be as high as 3000.

While many in the Pandit community had hoped to return to the Kashmiri valley, fear and discrimination ultimately keep them away.  

Ganjoo, who was forced to take responsibility for his family at a young age after his father passed away, complains of being a second-class citizen in his own land.

Living in a tiny, unheated room with his mother and brother, he has been unable to find steady work, despite having a master’s degree.  He thinks that unless the Indian government comes to the aid of his people, the Pandits’ long history in Kashmir will soon come to an end.  

“There is no hope, but if the government comes up with any packages, there is some possibility, otherwise, even the remaining few families will also move out of Kashmir…I think I will leave Kashmir.”

As of March, the Kashmiri government has been working on a comprehensive return and rehabilitation policy for Kashmiri Pandits.  

One such returnee is Vijay Sas. After having left the valley more than 20 years ago, Sas has returned to claim a place in his homeland.  

“I will never stop fighting because this is my right and nobody can deny me that whether he is from the majority or the minority. I belong to this place and this place belongs to me.”

Although Sas realizes the challenges his people face, he ultimately believes that despite the struggles ahead, the land of his ancestors will also be the land of his children.  

“We expect, not today, basically it is a small thing to say in the next 10 years, I’m saying after 100 years,  the Kashmiri Pandits will still be here. I may not be here, but the Kashmiri Pandit name will still be here and I believe that.”


Vedic Mathematics is Modern, User - Friendly

MUMBAI:- During a lecture on Vedic mathematics, Vijay Ashar, a retired professor of statistics and decision-making, spoke of the contribution of Bharati Krishna Tirthaji, a Shankaracharya of the Govardhan Pitham at puri. The Swamiji reportedly  wrote a book on the subject which interested English mathematicians.

“Some British scholars reportedly came to India for further research on Vedic mathematics. All this sparked renewed interest in the subject- the home- grown pullet had begun to fly on the wings of ‘phoren’ approval”, Mr. Ashar says.

                                                Today, the internet features several websites devoted to Vedic mathematics. Experts say the system is also being taught in some schools in the UK, the US, Australia and Switzerland. “A great deal of  research is being done, and several schools in India are also teaching it,” Mr. Ashar says. “Several books-Indian and Western- have also been published.”
                                                                                                                                           “However, many people here still seem to be unfamiliar with the power and ingenuity embodied in Vedic mathematical principles,” says Nehru planetarium director J.J. Rawal. “Some confuse it with obscurantist ideas and operations associated with performances of Vedic sacrifices. What they do not know is that Vedic mathematics is a uniquely modern and extremely user-friendly system, one which is capable of  eradicating innumeracy which is the bane of our age."

Mentel MagicInternet subtractions can be performed using the second sutra of Vedic mathematics, ‘All from 9 and the last from 10’, For instance, sub-track 357 from 1,000. We simply take each figure from 10. The answer is 643. That’s as simple as that. This always works for subtractions from numbers consisting of a followed by any number of noughts.

Similarly, the first sutra-‘ By one than the previous one’- can be used to multiply two or more numbers or even to find decimal values of  proper fractions under certain conditions. For instance, to multiply 9,988 by 9,912 one has to multiply 99 by 100, that one more than the previous number, followed by 88 times 12. The result would be simply 9,90,01,056.

“The beauty of  the Vedic mathematical approach is that for any problem, the answer can be obtained either from left to right or from right to left,” Says Mr. Ashar. “Even as you get into the solution, you realize the deeper significance and power of the decimal system devised by the ancient HINDU tradition. 

Source: http://haindavakeralam.com/HKPage.aspx?PageID=15377&SKIN=D

Putting Hinduism on the American cultural Map

“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Kipling, the champion of the all-conquering west. Actually, an inquiry into the history of ideas reveals that East and West mingled for centuries. Greek philosophy is indebted to Hindu philosophy. Christianity owes much to Hinduism and Buddhism, in particular its mystical and ascetic tendencies. The western science and philosophy grew up drawing the wisdom as well as the wealth of India. The wealth, wisdom and splendor of India dazzled the west for centuries.

During the 18th and 19th century Hindu thought influenced western intellectuals, German Romantics and American Transcendlists.

Today east and west interaction is no longer an academic exercise. It is a practical necessity.


In the past 150 years, Hindu philosophy has increasingly become integrated into American society. The fact is evident in American history. Hindu thought has been of special interest to many American intellectuals during the 19th century. The Theosophical Society of Blavatsky founded in 1875 was influenced by Hindu spiritualism and mysticism. Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavat Gita inspired the New Thought movement of Transcendalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Charles Filmore. Thoreau has written, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmological philosophy of the Bhagavat Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial”. In 1893, at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda affirmed the spiritual quest of the transcendlists and contributed significantly for the Hindu spiritual movements in the U.S. In 1894, Swami Vivekananda established the Vedanta Society in New York with a mission of spreading the tenets of Hindu philosophy in the U.S. During 19th century, Hindu philosophical concepts appealed to several American intellectuals and it contributed significantly to the development of transpersonal psychology, spiritualism and mysticism.  During the last century several Hindu spiritual leaders such as Yogi Paramananda, Parbupad, Swami Sathicdanada, Swami Chinmayanda, Swami Rama, Pramukh Maharaj and Mata Amrathana Mai have spread the spiritual message of Hinduism and galvanized the American society.                       

In spite of intellectual interest on Hindu philosophy, Immigration law barred Hindu immigrants from the U.S during 18th and 19th century. By 1908, some Hindus and Sikhs have landed on the American west cost and worked in factories, farms, and railroad construction.  These small number of early Indian immigrants faced violent racial attacks, social, economic and religious discrimination, cultural ridicule and hate crime. In 1917, 1924, 1927 and 1940, U.S Congress passed laws restricting Indian immigrants. In 1946, India was given an annual quota of 100 persons. In spite of anti Hindu violence and restrictions, between 1870-1965, a total of 16,013 Indians immigrated to the U.S.  In 1965, the U.S passed the Hart-Celler Act abolishing nation-of-origin restrictions. In the first decade following the passage of the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, 96,735 Indians immigrated to the U.S. The second wave of Indian immigration was much different from the first. Today there are more than 2 million Hindus in the U.S. Hindus in the U.S work in most trades and professions. They are very well represented in small and middle-sized businesses, the computer industry, medicine, engineering, nursing, teaching and basic sciences. Hindu professionals are extremely successful. Our medium income is higher than that of the average American, according to the U.S. Census.  Hindus have made valuable contributions in every major field of science and technology, human potential movements and promoted spiritual ideas. This has impacted American society in so many ways. Recently, America is witnessing influx of spiritual and philosophical ideas as well as practices derived directly from Hindu tradition. Hindus are a tiny minority surrounded by large non-Hindu cultures. But our influence in America far exceeds our number.


Our economic success alone does not guarantee the existence of Hindu community in the U.S. It needs in addition, some minimal cultural, religious identity and continuity.  In the past few years, several surveys of young Hindus have shown an alarming lack of knowledge and interest in Hindu heritage. There is collective as well as individual assimilation in the form of secularization. Among secular Hindus, there is not even a moderate degree of religious observance or communal affiliation. And even a city with Hindu temples, they do not of itself ensure Hindu identity or ensure the continuity of Hindutva. Some Hindus are reluctant to identify them as Hindus. We are also living in a society of rapid social change, frequent mobility, radical life styles, rapid technological change, drug abuse, rock music, crime, violence, Christian fundamentalism, sexual promiscuity, and very many other social phenomenons, both large and insignificant. These widespread problems are robbing the family of its sense of permanence and its spiritual foundation. The circumstances in which the family finds itself today and the forces of disorganization undermine emotional security, personal fulfillment, and peace of mind. We are also living in a society where material success, and the accumulation of wealth receive great emphasis. There are several built-in pressures that make our survival even more difficult. Even the most casual observer of the American scene knows that the institution of the family is under ruthless attack. The impact of all of these pressures, cultural and contrived, lands hardest on our shoulders and fostering confusion and ambiguity concerning our role and status in this society.                                                  


In order to have a peaceful life, we have to embrace more firmly our collective commitment to preserve, protect and practice our religion. Such a commitment involves not only how we see ourselves, but also how others see us and how we react to their vision. While we need to theorize the Hindu identity to the challenges of living in a Christian society (one which is becoming increasingly fundamentalist), I urge Hindus to consider, at least, the Hindu identity as counter-normative to larger forces that devalues Hindu life. Hindus cannot afford any time outs in our ongoing efforts to maximize every available resource to proactively connect our people-to Hindu identity, to our common heritage, to an understanding of the responsibility each of us carry for the future of Hindus. Assimilation is not necessarily a worthwhile goal-and perhaps by itself may even be a shortsighted goal. Our collective is to help usher in establishing a Hindu identity. As Hindus, we must be proud to proclaim that we are not Christian or Muslim and are proud that we Hindus help alive alternative traditions and alternative narratives and practices to Christianity and Islam. Being a Hindu means being different and that difference is critical for preserving world spiritual culture.


I believe that Hinduism, rather than Christianity or Islam, could go a long way toward making our world a more peaceful and equitable place to live. For that we need to establish Hindu identity and unity. Hindu unity means that our capacity to create, spur changes, and cooperate in far greater than we can imagine. Hindu unity encourages interconnectedness, dialogue and shared concerns. Hindu unity broadens our consciousness, open new thought paths and enables us to identify and tackle common problems affecting Hindus. Our Hindu awareness dissolves the hard and fast worlds between us. Hindus around the world are in the midst of tremendous shifts in our consciousness, on the verge of a great leap forward unlike the world has ever seen. Hindus joined together can change America, and change the world. We need now to understand, participate, initiate, engage in dialogue and use our power to free our minds, hearts and souls from regionalism, linguistic differences, and pseudo secularism. It is time for us to assert our Hindu identity with proud and dignity. Hindu identity and unity will enable us to see the world with fresh eyes.

Understanding what it means to be a Hindu begins in our home. Our rituals teach important lessons about who we are. Our rituals and religious festivals teach us that we belong to a unique culture. And it contains spiritual narrative about what it means to be a Hindu. The ritual we practice, such as lightening a lamp connect us to specific meanings. Our religious customs and festivals also give us a touchstone for memory, a way to associate, over time with meanings, with our collective consciousness and their universal power. Our samskaras transfer the memory of who we are from one generation to the next. They give us specific cultural and religious meanings that form our identity in one way, and they give us universal, human activities that connect us to all Hindus. Establishing a Hindu identity is possible only when we practice our religion, art, music, rituals and festivals.                                                                         


Hindu life in America can only have a future if it is rooted in Hindu religious tradition and if, it confronts its own special challenges including pseudo secularism, assimilation and inter religious marriage. It is hoped, in the near future a new generation of Hindus in America will emerge with an undamaged, uncomplicated sense of Hindu identity, spiritual power and moral grandeur. Remember that the single greatest influence on whether we will have Hindu grandchildren is religious observances in our home. This outweighs any other influence. There are problems in practicing our religion, in establishing a Hindu identity, but we must never internalize it and let it affect our Hindu identity and unity. Nothing is more practical than a commitment to our Hindu values and ideals. The best hope for our future is to commit ourselves with Hindutva from which a fresh understanding of our status in American society and our role in the scheme of things. Let us all work in uniform and establish our Hindu identity and unity. Let us use our synergy to produce the most effective representations of ourselves in the world. It has to be done. The rewards, however, can be enormous.

Source: http://haindavakeralam.com/HkPage.aspx?PAGEID=15384&SKIN=W

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Indians are not descendants of Aryans, says new study

Widely believed theory of Indo-Aryan invasion, often used to explain early settlements in the Indian subcontinent is a myth, a new study by Indian geneticists says.

The origin of genetic diversity found in South Asia is much older than 3,500 years when the Indo-Aryans were supposed to have migrated to India, a new study led by scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, says. The study appeared in American Journal of Human Genetics on Friday.

The theory of Indo-Aryan migration was proposed in mid-19th century by German linguist and Sanskrit scholar Max Muller.

He had suggested that 3,500 years ago, a dramatic migration of Indo-European speakers from Central Asia played a key role in shaping contemporary South Asian populations and this was responsible for introduction of the Indo-European language family and the caste system in India.

"Our study clearly shows that there was no genetic influx 3,500 years ago," said Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj of CCMB, who led the research team, which included scientists from the University of Tartu, Estonia, Chettinad Academy of Research and Education, Chennai and Banaras Hindu University.

"It is high time we re-write India's prehistory based on scientific evidence," said Dr Lalji Singh, former director of CCMB. "There is no genetic evidence that Indo-Aryans invaded or migrated to India or even something such as Aryans existed". Singh, vice-chancellor of BHU, is a coauthor.

Researchers analysed some six lakh bits of genetic information in the form of SNPs drawn from DNA of over 1,300 individuals from 112 populations including 30 ethnic groups in India.

The comparison of this data with genetic data of other populations showed that South Asia harbours two major ancestry components. One is spread in populations of South and West Asia, Middle East, Near East and the Caucasus. The second component is more restricted to South Asia and accounts for more than 50 per cent of the ancestry in Indian populations.

"Both the ancestry components that dominate genetic variation in South Asia demonstrate much greater diversity than those that predominate West Eurasia. This is indicative of a more ancient demographic history and a higher long-term effective population size underlying South Asian genome variation compared to that of West Eurasia," researchers said.

"The genetic component which spread beyond India is significantly higher in India than in any other part of world. This implies that this genetic component originated in India and then spread to West Asia and Caucasus," said Gyaneshwar Chaube of University of Tartu, Estonia.

If any migration from Central Asia to South Asia took place, the study says, it should have introduced apparent signals of East Asian ancestry into India. "Because this ancestry component is absent from the region, we have to conclude that if such an event indeed took place, it occurred before the East Asian ancestry component reached central Asia," it said.