NRI college kid Dharun Ravi is alleged in the video broadcast of the gay student Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge and lost his life. Dharun and fellow Rutgers student Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy.
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Today’s Allahabad high court decision to split the disputed Ram temple site to 3 groups consisting of 2 Hindu groups and 1 Muslim group was received with calm and no untoward incidence has been reported so far. Growing younger generation appears to pay no heed to these communal tensions. They appear to be more worried about cell phones, education & jobs. However employees all over took the day off, government employees will take 2 days off to relax, watch the drama on TV and enjoy their favorite movies. It is a welcome sign that India has turned a page in it’s history and divisive forces will have limited role in it’s future.
Hi! My name is Rajeswari Ramanathan, and I’m your typical South Indian with a long hard-to-pronounce first AND last name. Being an Indian adolescent in today’s diverse growing society is not just difficult, but also a learning experience about one’s own culture. I still remember walking into my second grade class at Durham Elementary and having students snicker and sniff around as if I carried along the “South Indian” scent.
It was my first year in the United States and I was exposed to a mix of races for the first time in my life. Back in India, it was just my Tamil friends and myself happily studying “maths” and enjoying ourselves by hitting the cinema theater on weekends. It was always about family, culture, and education. But when I entered my second grade class that day, my life took on a new direction.
It was fun growing up in India, where girls gathered together in groups to worship “Gowri”, the boys prepared to worship “Ganesha” the next day. Each and every house brought their own “Ganesha Idol”, decorated the pedestal and the worship areas in many creative ways.
Our religion is not based on community worship but individual worship “one on one” between you and the GOD. However our customs bring the community together while allowing an individual to invite GOD to their homes and heart to worship with whatever they can afford to do.
As kids it was fun to go around and collect all types of leaves and flowers, especially 21 grass blades that are near and dear to “Ganesha”. This fun filled attitude of treating GOD as your friend & savior instills spirituality and limits your ego. Be it decorating, cooking, singing, dancing or showing hospitality, it is all a selfless devotion. Worship is performed through “Shodasha Upachara”, a 16 step process starting with cleaning the external environment, your body, mind and spirits , inviting GANESHA to your house, invoking HIS presence in the IDOL, cleaning HIS body, feet, offering clothes, perfumes, colorings, sacred rice, leaves & flowers, showing light etc. You treat HIM as your ultimate guest by chanting HIS glory and offering all that you have lovingly collected. It is more important to offer your talents & skills be it music, dance or the nice sweet MODAKA specially prepared for the worship. At the end of the worship it is the custom to respect the priest, teachers and elders and receive part of the offerings as “Prasad”.
Accepting “prasad” is an important part of the Hindu worship. It signifies that life is a WORSHIP. You do every thing in the spirit of service to GOD and accept what comes back to you with complete satisfaction as “Prasad”, the grace of GOD. If you clamor for a bigger piece of Modaka or snatch it from another person, it defeats the whole purpose of the worship. Message is pure and simple “offer all you have and accept what you get” with humility. Thank GOD for bringing us in to this world and for our sustenance. This selfless form of worship and offering of your talents is the reason why music, dance, paintings and all other art forms have received patronage and survived over the ages throughout India and now in other countries as well.
People fast till the worship is complete. After receiving “Prasad”, generally a hearty breakfast follows with “idli” and chutney which are particularly enjoyable. Lunch with “Payasam” is a delight. Greater fun is in the afternoon going house to house and temple to temple all over the town to see unique decorations of Ganesha and worship him with the sacred rice you carry with you. You can visit any household in town and most of them invite kids and offer some “sweet” or “dish” to relish.
As kids roam through the city till the night, elders prepare for the evening worship. You are advised not to watch the “MOON” who is conspicuously visible on that evening on the eastern skies. It is said that if you watch the MOON that day, you will end up getting accused during the year for a mistake that you did not commit. This is believed to have started when Ganesha cursed MOON for laughing, while looking at his tummy. If you end up watching the “MOON” and like to avoid unwarranted “blame” in the year, you need to listen to Samantapokhyana. It is a story of Krishna who had watched the MOON on Ganesha’s birthday and was falsely accused of killing a cousin while accompanying him on a trip to the forest. His cousin was wearing “Samantaka Mani”, a rare jewel during the expedition and every one thought Kirshna killed him for the greed of this rare jewel. But in reality this cousin was lost in the jungle and killed by a bear and not by Krishna. The whole story goes on how Krishna worked hard to clear his name.
During the evening people worship Ganesha again, treat all invitees and passers by and read the story of Samantakopakhyana. Many times as kids go house to house all through evening, they sit still and listen to the story at one place or the other.
Some times GANESHA will stay for a few days at home, in which case daily worship will be offered. But in most cases as soon as all the kids are back at home during the night, Ganesha idol is shaken to symbolize “sending off” the GOD. The clay idol is then put in a plate and the elder in the family carries the plate, while the young one keeps ringing the bell and walk together in a procession chanting Ganesha Stotra. In small towns in India, you may see thousands of people walking with their Ganesha Idol and ringing bells walking towards the water pond. Final worship will be offered to Ganesha one last time and the idol will be sailed off into the water.
“Ganapati Boppa Morya”
Most towns in Southern India, will have month long public ceremonies, including the best artists performing in city centers thanks to the generous support of the local merchants and other people.
While all of US is embroiled in the ground zero Mosque and the burning of Koran controversy, we can’t just sit back as if it is of no concern. Will this be just another issue that will pass by or we will have some long term repercussions? What do you think?
What do I think?
Instead of spending millions on the Mosque in the name of interfaith bridge, moderate Muslims should use their money and insider connections to infiltrate Bin Ladin camp and help bring those perpetrators to justice. That will create more trust among Americans than all the other rhetoric.
India is home to numerous sub cultures. Many of the folk arts are dying as the country is getting industrialized and the population is moving to the cities. Check this project that is trying to preserve Indias rich folk art. Learn about Amarrass Desert Music Festival in New Delhi, India on November 26-27, 2011. The festival will feature artists included on these recordings, along with star representatives of the folk music tradition from Africa (Vieux Farka Toure, Mamadou Diabate). Click here to support this project.