Archive for August, 2009

We Are All Hindus Now

We Are All Hindus Now

By Lisa Miller, NEWSWEEK
Aug 31, 2009

America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded
by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue
to identify as Christian (still, that’s the lowest percentage in
American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu-or Muslim, or Jewish,
or Wiccan-nation, either. A million-plus Hindus live in the United
States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll
data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like
Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about
God, our selves, each other, and eternity.

The Rig Veda, the most ancient Hindu scripture, says this: “Truth is
One, but the sages speak of it by many names.” A Hindu believes there
are many paths to God. Jesus is one way, the Qur’an is another, yoga
practice is a third. None is better than any other; all are equal. The
most traditional, conservative Christians have not been taught to think
like this. They learn in Sunday school that their religion is true, and
others are false. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No
one comes to the father except through me.”

Americans are no longer buying it. According to a 2008 Pew Forum survey,
65 percent of us believe that “many religions can lead to eternal
life”-including 37 percent of white evangelicals, the group most likely
to believe that salvation is theirs alone. Also, the number of people
who seek spiritual truth outside church is growing. Thirty percent of
Americans call themselves “spiritual, not religious,” according to a
2009 NEWSWEEK Poll, up from 24 percent in 2005. Stephen Prothero,
religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American
propensity for “the divine-deli-cafeteria religion” as “very much in the
spirit of Hinduism. You’re not picking and choosing from different
religions, because they’re all the same,” he says. “It isn’t about
orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great-and
if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass
plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too.”

Then there’s the question of what happens when you die. Christians
traditionally believe that bodies and souls are sacred, that together
they comprise the “self,” and that at the end of time they will be
reunited in the Resurrection. You need both, in other words, and you
need them forever. Hindus believe no such thing. At death, the body
burns on a pyre, while the spirit-where identity resides-escapes. In
reincarnation, central to Hinduism, selves come back to earth again and
again in different bodies. So here is another way in which Americans are
becoming more Hindu: 24 percent of Americans say they believe in
reincarnation, according to a 2008 Harris poll. So agnostic are we about
the ultimate fates of our bodies that we’re burning them-like
Hindus-after death. More than a third of Americans now choose cremation,
according to the Cremation Association of North America, up from 6
percent in 1975. “I do think the more spiritual role of religion tends
to deemphasize some of the more starkly literal interpretations of the
Resurrection,” agrees Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at

So let us all say “om.”

Better know, before talking

Better know, before talking

S. Gurumurthy
Last Updated : 07 Aug 2009 12:13:28 AM IST

We have in our country a long but uneven tradition of philanthropy’. Thus lamented Sonia Gandhi at the function in Delhi to give the Indira Gandhi Prize to the American philanthropist Bill Gates. That was on July 25. Two days later, the Wall Street Journal printed, unusually, her whole speech. On July 29, Paul Beckett, a WSJ columnist, taking his cue from Sonia, mocked Indian businessmen for not being even remotely close to matching Gates. He pontificated: “India’s rich, open your wallets”.

Beckett used corporate India to dent the image of India itself, courtesy Sonia. Had she not spoken the way she did, he would not have written the way he did. What Sonia did not know — therefore, Beckett, who borrowed from her, could not — is what differentiates India from the US. American corporates, which almost exhaust America, are co-extensive with it; they account for over 80 per cent of its GDP. Bill Clinton had nicknamed the US ‘America Inc’, namely, the US as the aggregate of its corporates.

US corporate endowments aggregated are highly visible, like their brands. This is to emphasise their nature; not undermine their worth. The US market cap is some 40 times the Indian. Corporate India is insignificant in contrast. Some 400 top private Indian companies account for under six per cent of India’s GDP. This includes all Sensex members.

Sonia is understandably unfamiliar with the practices of traditional India. Indian charity, widely practised at the lowest unit levels down to every home, is socio-religious, not secular, in construct. Traditional India has high charitable propensities and deep philanthropic impulses. Indian religions do not convert others; their charity is therefore less known. Here are some examples of charity where the religious power is manifest.

Look at the charity run by Bhagwan Sathya Sai of Puttaparthi. His work for the poor is unmatched; yet equally unknown. Here are just two illustrations of his work. Anantapur district in Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh was known for water scarcity and water salinity and high fluoride levels in drinking water. Moved by the suffering of the poor, Sai Baba decided to do what the government could not for 50 long years; provide potable drinking water to the whole of Anantapur — yes, for the whole district.

He declared in November 1995, “Today it is ‘Raatlaseema’ (rocky region); it must be transformed into ‘Ratnala Seema’ (land that glitters like diamond)”. It took just 18 months. The work involved laying some 2,000 kilometres — yes 2,000 km — of water pipeline; building 43 sumps of 1.5 lakh to 25 lakh litres capacity; constructing 18 balancing reservoirs of three to 10 lakh litres capacity — where? — on top of hillocks; erecting 270 overhead reservoirs holding 40,000 to three lakh litres; installing 1,500-plus concrete pre-cast cisterns of 2,500 litres capacity, each attached with four taps for people to draw water.

This is how the 9th Planning Commission document describes the initiative. The Sathya Sai charity ‘has set an unparalleled initiative of implementing on their own, without any state budgetary support, a massive water supply project with an expenditure of Rs 3,000 million to benefit 731 scarcity and fluoride/salinity affected villages and a few towns in Anantapur district in 18 months’. Baba’s trusts repeated this feat in fluoride-affected Medak and Mehboobnagar districts. They provided water to some 4.5 lakh poor in 179 villages in Medak, and to some 3.5 lakh poor in 141 villages in the next. The drinking water projects in these districts covered more than 1,000 villages with some 20 lakh people.

Then, he saw the poor in Chennai struggling for water. He declared on January 19, 2002, “Today I have made a new resolve. Madras is suffering from acute shortage of drinking water. The rich can buy water. What will the poor do? I have decided to work towards bringing drinking water to Madras, no matter how difficult and how costly the task”. His central trust took up the construction of a 63-km stretch of the 150 km canal in the Telugu Ganga scheme, left incomplete for want of funds, thus denying water to Chennai. Thanks to Baba, Krishna water reached Chennai, irrigating some three lakh hectares of agricultural land on the way. These projects cost over Rs 600 crore.

The Sathya Sai trusts in Puttaparthi and Bengaluru run world-class speciality hospitals. They have performed some 24,000 cardiac surgeries, 34,000 cardiac cathertisations, 7,000 neuro surgeries, 40,000 eye surgeries, and 600 orthopaedic surgeries and treated millions more — all free. What is absent in these two hospitals is a billing department. The bill for these services might exceed Rs 1,000 crore. Baba’s trusts also run free educational institutions, cultural centres and music colleges. Secular India generously released a stamp to note the charity in Anantapur. Compare it with the Indira Gandhi award to Gates and the encomiums at the cost of India.

Take another religious charity, the Ramakrishna Mission. It runs 197 hospitals and its health-related work serves 85 lakh people annually, including 25 lakh in rural areas; 1,186 educational institutions serve 3.4 lakh students including 1.24 lakh in rural areas.

Take the Swaminarayan movement. Its 14 hospitals serve over six lakh patients annually; it runs 10 schools, eight colleges, 14 hostels; it has built 55 schools in disaster-hit areas; it aids 20 schools financially; gives 5000 scholarships annually. In Punjab, not a single man, woman or child would have gone hungry in the last three centuries, thanks to the langar in Gurudwaras feeding millions every day. Jains run huge charities all over the country. So do religious Muslims and Christians. Even the freedom movement was sustained by philanthropy. Lala Lajpat Rai gave all his properties to the movement; Chittaranjan Das and many others went bankrupt funding the movement. They never expected any Indira Gandhi Award. That is real philanthropy.

Traditional Indian business communities allocate a fixed share of their turnover for charity. The mahamai, an informal charity tax among the Nadars in Tamil Nadu has funded hundreds of the community’s educational institutions. The Nagarathars in Tamil Nadu too, through their mahamai, run huge charities. The Marwaris and others do so through the dharmada. Even today this informal system prevails in non-corporate business in India. So charity is by the community as a whole, not by individuals. But corporate India is unfortunately neither Indian nor American.

This is India, about which Sonia is singularly ignorant even after 40 years of domicile. When she said India has an uneven tradition of philanthropy it only exposed her ignorance, besides exporting it to the WSJ. The result? The WSJ is preaching to Indians about charity; the Indian media reports this nonsense without challenging it.

QED: To talk about Indian traditions, she first needs to know about them.

Afghanistan’s marginalised Hindus

Afghanistan’s marginalised Hindus
Reza Mohammadi (, Sunday 2 August 2009 12.00 BST )

Perhaps Radha wasn’t the most beautiful girl in Afghanistan. But such were this Hindu girl’s looks and kindness that all of Kabul’s bachelors fell in love with her. Her fame was such that the people of Kabul composed a famous song for her. The song says: “We have made Lala promise not to cremate Radha”. Nearly 80 years later, this song is still sung in Afghanistan. Lala, meaning brother, is the term Afghans use to refer to Hindus. In the song, the people ask Lala not to cremate Radha’s beautiful body after her death, as is required by Hindu tradition.

During the reign of King Amanullah Khan (1919-1928) Radha’s father, Ranji Das, was finance minister, a role that had long been filled by the Hindus of Afghanistan. But the growth of religious fundamentalism has now pushed the Hindus out of government offices, forcing them into the bazaars. It is now many years since a Hindu held a government post in the country. But they are still running a major part of the Afghan bazaars, and come second in trading medical products.

Overlooking Kabul is a mountain called Asmayi. The name is apparently a Hindu term, deriving from the godess Asha. Today, the mountain has become the largest pilgrimage centre for Hindu worshippers. According to a Hindu tale, an eternal fire burns at the summit of Asmayi, a fire which has refused to die out for 4000 years. There are two other centres of worship in Kabul, the Harshari Natha temple in Kabul’s Baghban Kucha, and the Shorbazaar Temple. These are Kabul’s oldest temples, where Hindus celebrate divali and naradatar. They are also the meeting places of the Sikh and Hindu religious associations. In addition to these, Kabul today has many other newer and larger temples scattered in different parts of the city.

According to Professor Rajesh Kochhar’s book, The Vedic People, Afghanistan is one of the oldest Hindu centres of the world. Kochhar says that a large part of Rigveda was written in Afghanistan, with Helmand and Arghandab being mentioned as sacred rivers in both the Rigveda and Mahabharata. The Surya temple, dedicated to the god of sun, and the Yogi of Panjshir, which represents a worshipper turned into stone, north of Kabul, are both ancient Hindu sites. And yet, if foreigners were to travel to Afghanistan today, they would encounter so few Hindus that they would assume the Hindus are either from elsewhere or recent immigrants. They would encounter a community that is neither playing its part in politics nor getting involved with the rest of the world.

Hindus are clearly among the oldest inhabitants of Afghanistan. They are the native people, whom Islamic fundamentalism has turned into unprotected strangers. Strangers, who this year found themselves forced to argue for days with Muslims in the centre of Kabul in order to be allowed to cremate their dead in line with their tradition. Strangers who never dare to send their children to school for fear of mockery.

In February 2001, during the Taliban’s reign, Hindus found themselves forced to wear a distinguishing yellow stripe on their arm. Even though the Taliban have been removed, Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf, presently an MP in Karzai’s administration, has expressed a similar opinion on TV:

The Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan are considered part of the dhimmi in line with sharia law. The government has an obligation to protect them but they are required to pay a poll tax. They can hold civilian occupations, such as doctors, but they cannot be in charge of a governmental body or office. Upon meeting a Muslim, a Hindu is required to greet the Muslim first. If a Muslim is standing and there is a chair, the Hindu is not allowed to sit down on the chair.

According to MP Anarkali Honaryar, a representative of Sikhs and Hindus in the Afghan parliament, the majority of the country’s 200,000 Sikhs and Hindus are now living abroad, and the number of people leaving Afghanistan for India, Europe and or Pakistan grows by the day.

Friends of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage increasingly fear that these ancient inhabitants of the country might one day meet with the same fate of other peoples of Afghanistan, including Jews and Buddhists, and so vanish from the the country altogether.

Translated by Nushin Arbabzadah

Bharatiya concept of rural development

Bharatiya concept of rural development
By Surendra Singh Chauhan
Once, Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya got down at a railway station. Since it was night and no vehicle was available, he started walking to the destination along with his associates. When they felt thirsty at night, they saw a hamlet. There was also a well near the hamlet. A person was sleeping on a cot near the well. A lady was also sleeping along with her son near him on the ground. Deendayalji awakened the man and asked him for the rope and the pot to take out water from the well. The man immediately woke up and offered to provide water himself. As he was to offer the water, his wife stopped him. She went inside the hamlet and brought some pieces of gud. She gave the gud to all of them to eat before drinking water. This hospitality of that woman touched Deendayalji’s heart. He gave a five-rupee note for her son but the lady refused to accept saying, “You are our guest”. Tears started rolling down the cheeks of Deendayalji after hearing these words from that rural lady. Such incidents are common in villages. It proves that our Bharatiya values are still alive in villages. People there are the living example of inter-complementarity. They are happy to welcome even a stranger as guest any time. The village life is full of happiness rather than the life in urban areas. They may be economically weak but the values of Indian culture have truly been preserved by them.

Once our villages were self-contained. No hand was without work. Each task had a person assigned to it. All were complementary to one another. There were architects and sculptors; there were carpenters for wood work, blacksmiths for metal work, jewelers for making ornaments, masons for house construction, weavers for making clothes, tailors for stitching garments, dye makers for colouring, cobblers for making footwear. Each of them was a specialist in his craft. There was no service for which people had to go outside the village. Whether it was hair dressing or bangle making, laundering or upholstering, there were local craftsmen available to do it. Oil, ghee, jiggery, sugar – everything was locally available. There were schools too – with this difference that the tutor never accepted fees. The local doctors served the people without fees. For exchange or purchase there was the humble local grocer; for worship the temple; for exercise the gymnasium. All commanded respect. There was land for cultivation, trees for fruits, gardens for flowers, cowherds for milk, ploughs for tilling, and bullock-carts for transportation. The list can go on endlessly. The entire village was like one family. From the sweeper to the Pandit, all were looked upon with respect. Even the modes of addressing others were full of regard and affection – Baba (father), Dada (grandfather), Chacha (uncle), Chachee (aunt), and so on. All shared in joy or sorrow. A wedding in a family was a function of the entire village.

While all were free to do as they pleased, how come that there was such constant sharing of life? Who organised it all? The fact is that each house was in fact a Samskar Kendra and Vidyalaya for ensuring that Bharatiya values are reflected in day-to-day life. From the young age all were taught to have reverence for mother, father, guests, village deity and also for nature’s elements, like trees, water, fire, mother earth, etc. It is from such villages that invocation of universal well being emanated. It is in such environs that high ethical norms, such as regarding all beings as extensions of oneself and non-coveting, were nourished.

It is in order to re-awaken such sentiments that Swami Vivekananda gave a call to social workers to go from one end of the country to another, from one village to another, and make the people aware of their duty and tell them, “Arise, awake!”. He realised that Bharat lived in its villages. This does not mean that 82 per cent lived in the villages but the cultural heritage of Bharat forms the true image of our motherland. He said, “Let her arise out of the peasants’ cottages, grasping the plough, out of the huts of the fishermen the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop form beside the over of the fritter seller. Let her emanate from the factory from marts and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests from hills and mountains.” The same is the impact of Maharshi Aurobindo’s declaration that the village is the soul of our social life.

Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya too had exhorted: “Let there be assemblies of the wise in each village. Let auspiciousness pervade each village through Harikathas. May schools and gymnasia flourish everywhere. Let every week be festive.”

Thakkar Bapa worked for it and Sant Tukdoji Maharaj sang this rural development in his bhajans. He very deeply thought over all aspects of rural life. It is to regenerate that rich life Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya drew attention to the basics—“Let there be work for all able hands. Let each field have plenty of water.” He laid emphasis on local employment using local raw-material. He said repeatedly: “It is when villages become self-respecting and self-reliant that the picture of the country can change. Change has to take place from bottom upwards, and not the other way.” Sant Vinoba Bhave started the Bhudan Andolan. Sant Pandurang Athavale of Gujarat also carried various marvellous experiments in farming. Shri Anna Hajare presented an ideal example of development in his village Ralegan Sindi in Maharashtra. Nanaji Deshmukh started various experiments of rural development in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Unlike these dreams of our great personalities the picture of the rural areas is deteriorating day-by-day. The annadata of the country is forced to commit suicide and leave the tradition of farming. The policymakers know very well that the total rural economy is based on agriculture, but agriculture is getting less profitable these days because of costly machines and chemical-fertilizers, pesticides and scarcity of human labours. The village people are still in dearth of facilities in health, education, employment and other amenities of life. The rural population is swelling the city’s thinning rural areas. The city population according to 1951 census was 18.39 whereas the city population reached 28.8 per cent in 2001 census. Why so? This exodus from villages to cities varies from province to province.

Some state governments too have taken some initiatives in rural development. But the major difference between the steps taken by the government, individual or organisational level is that the government concentrates only at the materialistic development. This type of work has only partial effect. No effort is made on the part of the government agencies to provide samskars for families, self-respect, moral education, health, etc. What the villages today need holistic development and not the partial one. Until the life of the people living in villages is developed on the basis of Indian values of life, they will not achieve all-round development.

The legacy of savants inspired the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to promote rural development activities in countless villages. For the last more than one decade that the Sangh took this herculean task with many unique experiments in the country. All activities of rural development inspired by the RSS workers are aimed at achieving integrated development. Initiating the rural developmental activities, the former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Rajju Bhaiya, had declared in 1995 that the utmost priority should be at making the villages hunger-free, disease-free and literate (Kshudha mukta, roga mukta, tatha shikshayukt). Today, there are over 100 villages where the rural development work done by swayamsevaks has inspired the people of surrounding villages and their experiments are being emulated by those people. We are trying to inculcate the feeling among villagers that their field of work is not limited to their self but their entire village. They must participate in the village activities and should know about the developmental work going on in their villages.

The first and foremost requisite for development is that the people of the village have mentality of development. We ensure that the house of our activist becomes the practical source of inspiration for others. Making the village addiction-free is also at our top priority. The addiction becomes the reason of disputes and if we have to make the village dispute-free we have to achieve total prohibition. We make all efforts so that disputes of the village are resolved in the village itself. At the time when there are fights over reservations and getting more benefits from the government, the people of Dhagewari village in Maharashtra formally wrote to the local administration requesting to delete their names from the Below Poverty Line list as they their economic condition has improved and they now do not need the benefit of BPL category. The change in the mentality has come due to the efforts of Sangh swayamsevaks. This type of rural reconstruction activities are going on all over the country.

(The writer has developed his own village Mohad as a model village in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh. He is also the former Akhil Bharatiya Gram Vikas Pramukh of RSS. He can be contacted at Village and Post: Mohad, Tehsil Kareli, District Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh.)

Tulsi can help keep swine flu away: Ayurvedic experts

Tulsi can help keep swine flu away: Ayurvedic experts

Lucknow, May 27: Wonder herb Tulsi can not only keep the dreaded swine flu at bay but also help in fast recovery of an afflicted person, Ayurvedic practitioners claim.

“The anti-flu property of Tulsi has been discovered by medical experts across the world quite recently. Tulsi improves the body’s overall defence mechanism including its ability to fight viral diseases. It was successfully used in combating Japanese Encephalitis and the same theory applies to swine flu,” Dr U K Tiwari, a herbal medicine practitioner says.

Apart from acting as a preventive medicine in case of swine flu, Tulsi can help the patient recover faster.

“Even when a person has already contracted swine flu, Tulsi can help in speeding up the recovery process and also help in strengthening the immune system of the body,” he claims.

Dr Bhupesh Patel, a lecturer at Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar is also of the view that Tulsi can play an important role in controlling swine flu.

“Tulsi can control swine flu and it should be taken in fresh form. Juice or paste of at least 20-25 medium sized leaves should be consumed twice a day on an empty stomach.”

This increases the resistance of the body and, thereby, reduces the chances of inviting swine flu,” believes Patel.

Bureau Report

From: Date 4th. Aug 2009

Christuva Brahmana Seva Samithy

Advent Christian Church Building at Tiruvanmiyur.See the cloth poster displaying in Tamil ‘Christuva Brahmana Seva Samithy’

Yesterday morning (Thursday, 6-8-2009) I got a phone call from some agitated senior Hindu citizens of Tiruvanmiyur. All of them were complaining about a poster put up by the Advent Christian Church at Tiruvanmiyur. The poster has been put up by ‘Christuva Brahmana Seva Samithy’, announcing that there is going to be a ‘Kathaa Kaalakshepam’ by “Poojyasri Bhagavatar Vedanaayakam Shastrikal” on 8-8-2009 (Saturday) at 5 PM at the Advent Christian Church premises. The main man behind this initiative is one Sadhu Chellappa who is endevouring to beat the conversion record of St Francis Xavier (1605-1552) in Goa and elsewhere in India in the 16th century, Robert de Nobili (1577-1656) in Madurai in the 17th century, Fr Schwartz (1726-1798) in Thanjavur District in the 18th Century and Bishop Caldwell (1814-1891) in Tirunelveli District in the 19th Century.

What angered the enlightened Hindus of Tiruvanmiyur is that the Advent Christian Church is misusing the name (and of course caste!!!) of the Brahmin community in order to use it as a ploy to mislead and deceive young Hindu men and women in general and Brahmins in particular, in order to lure them into the commercial trap of treacherous missionary Christianity.

I immediately sent a photographer to the spot to take a photograph of the poster. This photograph of the Advent Christian Church building at Tiruvanmiyur may be seen at the top of this story with the poster of ‘Christuva Brahmana Seva Samithy’ put up by Sadhu Chellappa. I also went to the spot and saw the poster outside the Advent Christian Church at Tiruvanmiyur. Later some of the Hindu citizens of Tiruvanmiyur met the concerned Inspector of Police at the Tiruvanmiyur Police Station and complained that their religious feelings, sentiments and susceptibilities had been hurt by the caste-based offending poster put up by the ‘Christuva Brahmana Seva Samithy’ guided and controlled by Sadhu Chellappa. They represented that the Advent Christian Church and the Adventist Christians have no religious right to tamper with or misuse the sacred and timeless symbols of Hinduism. It was also represented that the offending poster must be removed forthwith because it comes into conflict with Sections 153A and 295A of the IPC under which it is an offence to promote, on ground of religion, disharmony, enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities. IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THE POLICE TOOK IMMEDIATE ACTION TO GET THE OFFENDING POSTER REMOVED IMMEDIATELY. TIRUVANMIYUR POLICE HAVE EARNED THE APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE OF THE AGITATED HINDUS OF THE AREA IN QUESTION.

According to the priests of Christianity — of all grades and shades at all levels — Christianity, unlike Hinduism, is a casteless religion. When fraudulent conversion takes place, the poorest sections of Hindu society in India — more particularly the Dalits — are taken for a ride and told that once any one becomes a Christian, there is no need for him to worry about the inferiority or superiority of his caste and that he joins the ‘Brotherhood’ of Christianity in which he will face no more caste-based oppression or social discrimination.


Recently many Dalit Christians in Tamil Nadu, Who had converted to Christianity some years ago, have reconverted themselves into the fold of Hinduism, the religion of their forefathers. When I interviewed some of them they told me in one voice: “We have had enough of cruel and unbearable caste discrimination inside our Church. We are happy to return to Hinduism.”

Perhaps Sitaram Goel (1921-2003) had mercenaries like Sadhu Chellappa in mind when in his classic book ‘History of Hindu-Christian Encounters’ (AD 304 to 1996) he observed as follows: “Jesus Christ has been the stock-in-trade of Christian Mission down the ages. He has been packed in all shapes and sizes depending upon the gullibility of the clients to be duped. And he has been rammed down the throats of those who have refused to be hoodwinked by the hoax. As one surveys the history of Christian Missions in lands where this hoax has been hawked or imposed, one comes across no end of force and fraud employed in its service by a variety of soldiers and salesmen most of whom are presented as saints. It can be said without exaggeration that if one is in search of a hardened criminal with a clean conscience, one should reach out for the first available Christian Saint and one will not miss the mark. Saint Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of the East according to the Roman Catholic Church, provides an excellent example.”

150 years before Sitaram Goel, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), one of the Founders of the American State and the Third President of the United States of America had come to the same conclusion about missionaries like Sadhu Chellappa today. Let us hear his eloquent words: “Millions of innocent men, women and children since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support error and roguery all over the Earth.”

Heroic defender of Hindu faith and Sanatana Dharma

According to Sri Ramgopalji, President of Hindu Munnani, Sadhu Chellappa belongs to the nefarious tradition of fraudulent Christian conversion in Tamil Nadu. He said to me: “I strongly disapprove of the caste based approach to fraudulent conversion at the Advent Christian Church, resorted to by Sadhu Chellappa through his front organisation called ‘Christuva Brahmana Seva Samithy’. I congratulate the Tiruvanmiyur Police for having taken prompt action to get the offending poster put up by this Seva Samity removed yesterday. I would appeal to the Tiruvanmiyur Police to see that the proposed fraudulent conversion meeting scheduled for 8-8-2009 (Saturday) at 5 PM is banned in the larger interest of social and religious harmony. All self-respecting and true practicing Christians — for whom I have the greatest admiration and respect — should strongly condemn the anti-Christian activities of an unscrupulous commercial evangelist like Sadhu Chellappa, whom I would like to describe as SUVISESHAM SOODHU CHELLAPPA. In my view, such unprincipled men would only damage the cause of genuine Christianity, apart from deranging and destroying the fabric of social, cultural and religious harmony of our Nation.”

Seeing the way in which Sadhu Chellappa is trying to cleverly manipulate the time honoured and ancient symbols / names of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma, in order to meet the commercial targets of his induced evangelical programme, I am reminded of the letter that Swami Dayananda Saraswati wrote to the Indian Express about the shady activities of one Christian priest called Bede Griffiths (who wore ochre robes) who had an ‘Ashram’ in Trichy District: “Ten years ago I suggested to a Papal Nuncio that I might don a friar’s habit and preach Hinduism in the Italian countryside. I was promptly warned that I would be charged with impersonating a cleric and public mischief, as Roman Catholicism was the protected state religion and in full control of Italian education. Hinduism is neither protected nor India’s state religion and we find priests like Bede Griffiths in the garb of Hindu Sanyasis preaching Christianity in the Tamil countryside.”

Later Swami Dayananda also told Bede Griffiths: ”The sannyasin is the very embodiment of SANATAN DHARMA. The church does not recognize a priest outside of the Apostolic succession of St Peter, and we do not recognize a priest outside the Hindu parampara. In that you are a Roman Priest and a Benedictine Monk, you cannot possibly be a sannyasin; it is verily a contradiction in terms.”

Christianity, from its very inception to today, has subsumed and subverted the deities, symbols, rituals and philosophies of the peoples it wishes to conquer. This activity which is imperial and not spiritual, must cease before hostilities and mistrust will die; hostilities by the way that we Hindus never invited in the first place. Swami Dayananda warned Bede Griffiths by saying that he was trying to impugn Hinduism, slur sanyasa, rout reason, ruin meaning, mutilate categories, transpose symbols, deny sacred convention and usage, profane principles, philosophise and generally present an argument that is oxymoronic. Sadhu (Soodhu) Chellappa is trying to do the same thing at the Tiruvanmiyur Church on Saturday 8-8-2009.

I fully endorse the beautiful martial words of Sri B. R. Haran (freelance writer and journalist): “Brahmins were, are and will be always a “Prize Catch” for the Christian gangsters who indulge in conversions. For them converting even a single Brahmin is a great achievement. A converted Brahmin becomes a great asset for them, for with one Brahmin convert they would be able to easily convert a hundred non-Brahmins. Of late, the Christian missionaries have started targeting the Brahmin community, and in the last four or five years, they have been able to achieve a considerable figure. This imposter Chellappa, with the help of other play-actors like Vedanayagam, has been on the hunt for Brahmins for quite sometime. These imposters deliberately misinterpret those verses to suit their agenda and brainwash the gullible youth of the Brahmin community, who have been already ‘secularized’ by the environment prevailing around them. With this aim only, this fraud masquerading as a ‘Sadhu’, had started this bogus organization called “Christian Brahmin Seva Samiti” and utilizes the services of the other cheat Vedanayagam, who is a play-actor masquerading as a ‘Sastrigal” (Vedic Pandit). Christianity has got nothing to do with Brahmins or Sastrigals or Hindu Sastras. The Church or any other Christian organization doesn’t have the rights to use such nomenclatures. Such acts hurt the caste and religious sentiments of the Hindu majority.”

China should break up India: Chinese strategist
China should break up India: Chinese strategist
Almost coinciding with the 13th round of Sino-Indian border talks (New Delhi [ Images ], August 7-8, 2009), an article (in the Chinese language) has appeared in China captioned ‘If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up’ (Zhong Guo Zhan Lue Gang,, Chinese, August 8, 2009).
Interestingly, it has been reproduced in several other strategic and military Web sites of the country and by all means, targets the domestic audience. The authoritative host site is located in Beijing [ Images ] and is the new edition of one, which so far represented the China International Institute for Strategic Studies (
Claiming that Beijing’s ‘China-Centric’ Asian strategy, provides for splitting India, the writer of the article, Zhan Lue (strategy), has found that New Delhi’s corresponding ‘India-Centric’ policy in Asia, is in reality a ‘Hindustan centric’ one. Stating that on the other hand ‘local centres’ exist in several of the country’s provinces (excepting for the UP and certain northern regions), Zhan Lue has felt that in the face of such local characteristics, the ‘so-called’ Indian nation cannot be considered as one having existed in history.
According to the article, if India today relies on any thing for unity, it is the Hindu religion. The partition of the country was based on religion. Stating that today nation states are the main current in the world, it has said that India could only be termed now as a ‘Hindu religious state’. Adding that Hinduism is a decadent religion as it allows caste exploitation and is unhelpful to the country’s modernisation, it described the Indian government as one in a dilemma with regard to eradication of the caste system as it realises that the process to do away with castes may shake the foundation of the consciousness of the Indian nation.
The writer has argued that in view of the above, China in its own interest and the progress of Asia, should join forces with different nationalities like the Assamese, Tamils, and Kashmiris and support the latter in establishing independent nation-States of their own, out of India. In particular, the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) in Assam, a territory neighboring China, can be helped by China so that Assam realises its national independence.
The article has also felt that for Bangladesh, the biggest threat is from India, which wants to develop a great Indian Federation extending from Afghanistan to Myanmar. India is also targeting China with support to Vietnam’s efforts to occupy Nansha (Spratly) group of islands in South China Sea.
Hence the need for China’s consolidation of its alliance with Bangladesh, a country with which the US and Japan [ Images ] are also improving their relations to counter China.
It has pointed out that China can give political support to Bangladesh enabling the latter to encourage ethnic Bengalis in India to get rid of Indian control and unite with Bangladesh as one Bengali nation; if the same is not possible, creation of at least another free Bengali nation state as a friendly neighbour of Bangladesh, would be desirable, for the purpose of weakening India’s expansion and threat aimed at forming a ‘unified South Asia’.
The punch line in the article has been that to split India, China can bring into its fold countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, support ULFA in attaining its goal for Assam’s independence, back aspirations of Indian nationalities like the Tamils and Nagas, encourage Bangladesh to give a push to the independence of West Bengal [ Images ] and lastly recover the 90,000 sq km territory in southern Tibet [ Images ].
Wishing for India’s break-up into 20 to 30 nation-States like in Europe, the article has concluded by saying that if the consciousness of nationalities in India could be aroused, social reforms in South Asia can be achieved, the caste system can be eradicated and the region can march along the road of prosperity.
The Chinese article in question will certainly outrage readers in India. Its suggestion that China can follow a strategy to dismember India, a country always with a tradition of unity in diversity, is atrocious, to say the least. The write-up could not have been published without the permission of the Chinese authorities, but it is sure that Beijing will wash its hands out of this if the matter is taken up with it by New Delhi.
It has generally been seen that China is speaking in two voices — its diplomatic interlocutors have always shown understanding during their dealings with their Indian counterparts, but its selected media is pouring venom on India in their reporting. Which one to believe is a question confronting the public opinion and even policy makers in India.
In any case, an approach of panic towards such outbursts will be a mistake, but also ignoring them will prove to be costly for India.
D S Rajan, is Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies.
D S Rajan

Swami in Ghana – Swami Ghanananda Saraswati

The Swami Of Accra
The West African nation of Ghana is an unlikely place to encounter a Hindu monastery. Photographer Smruthi Gargi Eswar meets the eclectic cult

Photos of the gods An African Hindu disciple scans the Bhagavad Gita

Fire-starter Swami Ghanananda Saraswati

Daily bred A woman takes her turn at the collective havan that follows the morning aarti

Young hands The children of disciples are initiated into rituals

Egalitarians all Most worshippers at the monastery are Africans from different professions and backgrounds

Song of songs Woman singing bhajans at the monastery
AS AN Indian in Ghana, I soon became aware of the country’s Indian community. It was while working on a photo-essay about crosscultural 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 Krish- nananda (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.