Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Parents' Day

That Parent's Day was not there even two decades back would come as a surprise to many. Yet it is a fact that it was only in 1994 that the holiday got an official acceptance in the U.S.A.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact time when the idea of having a Parent's Day was really born. However, the holiday can be said to stem from the eternal human desire to honor and appreciate parents - those special beings upon whom lie the foundation of a new generation, whose enormous effort results in the creation of a better species of humankind that can show a new direction to the world.

In the U.S.A., Parent's Day was born out of a united effort of several religious, civic and elected leaders, who felt the need of an occasion to promote responsible parenting in the society, to highlight the important roles parents have in the successful raising of their children and to uphold the ideal parental role models for the benefit of the new generation.

Parent's Day was officially established in 1994 with the sincere efforts of the then US President Bill Clinton. During his presidential term in White House, Clinton felt that despite having a Father's Day and a Mother's Day that honored fathers and mothers individually there existed a void. Raising children in a proper way requires the presence and combined endeavor of both parents and hence there needed to be an occasion that appreciated parents collectively. The President strived to establish Parent's Day and this was realized when he signed into law a resolution for "recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children." This resolution was cohesively adopted by the U.S. Congress. It would establish the American celebration of Parent's Day on the fourth Sunday of every July.

Today, Parents' Day is observed in the U.S. annually on the fourth Sunday of every July. It is also celebrated in many other countries such as the Republic of Korea, Vietnam and India. Irrespective of where it is held, it is an occasion for children to express their gratitude and appreciation for parents and acknowledge their untiring efforts in bringing them up.

When you feel like breaking down or crashing in,
Who do you turn to, to forgive your sin?
When you cried your lonely tears,
Who will be there to fight your fears?
And when it feels like no one would understand,
Who was there to hold your hand?

There are people whom you can't replace,
They're the ones who gave you your face.
They'll love you through thick and thin,
They show you the light from deep within.
And if by chance, you happen to die,
They'll be the ones who will really cry.

You see, my friend, there's no one who can love you more,
Than your very own parents, that's for sure.
Always remember that this is true,
That wherever you go, your parents will be there for you.

The Holiday Spot - History of Parents' Day

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kamadeva, The God Of Love

Kama in a wider sense means desire and in a narrow sense, sexual desire. Hinduism prescribes fulfillment of sexual passions for the householders and abstinence from it for the students and ascetics who are engaged in the study of the scriptures and in the pursuit of Brahman.

The Bhagavad gita informs us that desire is an aspect of delusion and one has to be wary of its various movements and manifestations. The best way to deal with desires is to develop detachment and perform desireless actions without seeking the fruit of ones actions and making an offering of all the actions to God. This way our actions would not bind us to the cycle of births and deaths.

Hinduism permits sexual freedom so long as it is not in conflict with the first aim, i.e. dharma. Hindu scriptures emphasize that the purpose of sex is procreation and perpetuation of family and society, while the purpose of dharma is to ensure order in the institution of family and society. A householder has the permission to indulge in sex, but also has the responsibility to pursue it in accordance with the laws of dharma. Marriage is a recognized social institution and marriage with wife for the purpose of producing children is legitimate and in line with the aims of dharma. Sex in any other form, including sex with wife for pleasure is adharma. (Here we are explaining the logic of the Purusharthas. We are not advocating an opinion.)

One of the important sects of Hinduism is Tantricism. It recognizes the importance of sexual freedom in the liberation of soul. The Tantrics accept sex as an important means to experience the blissful nature of God and the best way to experience God in physical form. They also refer to the concept of Purusharthas to justify their doctrines. They believe that sexual energy is divine energy and it can be transformed into spiritual energy through controlled expression of sex.

Just as the dharmashastras were written for the sake of dharma, and artha shastras for artha, kama shastras were composed in ancient India for providing guidance in matters of sex. We have lost many of them because of the extreme secrecy and social disapproval associated with the subject. What we have today is Vatsayana's Kamasutra, which like the Arthashastra seems to be a compilation of various independent works rather the work of a single individual.

The Hindu god of love, one of the Visve-devas in the Hindu pantheon. As the Eros of Hesiod was connected in early Greek mythology with the world's creation, and only afterwards became degraded into the passional Cupid, so was Kama in his original meaning as used in the Vedas, which gives the metaphysical and philosophical significance of his functions in the cosmos. Kama is the first conscious, all-embracing desire for universal good, love, and the first feeling of infinite compassion and mercy for all that lives and feels, needs help and kindness, that arose in the consciousness of the creative One Force, as soon as it came into life and being as a ray from the Absolute. Kama "is in the Rig-Veda (x. 129) the personification of that feeling which leads and propels to creation. He was the first movement that stirred the One, after its manifestation from the purely abstract principle, to create. 'Desire first arose in It, which was the primal germ of mind; and which sages, searching with their intellect, have discovered to be the bond which connects Entity with Non-Entity' " (SD 2:176) -- or manas with pure atma-buddhi. Only later did kama become the power that gratifies desire on the animal plane.

In the Puranas, Kama is the king and lord of the apsarases. He is pictured armed with a bow and arrows: the bow is often represented to be of sugar cane, the bowstring a line of bees, and each arrow is tipped with a distinct flower which is devoted to, and supposed to preside over, one of the senses. He is also often represented as a handsome youth riding on a parrot and attended by nymphs, one of whom bears his banner displaying the Makara, or a fish on a red background.

The attributes ascribed to Kamadeva in exoteric literature rarely depict the full sway of this cosmic force or entity in its multifarious ranges of activity. Kama is not only a cosmic principle or entity but also is inherent in every unit of the innumerable hosts of entities which compose the cosmos. Thus kama is the fourth principle in the human constitution; and, just as in its cosmic activities and relations, kama is both a superior and an inferior activity; indeed, it may be said to be divine in its higher aspects, just as it is physical in its lowest fields of action.

Spiritual - Theosophy Dictionary on Kamadeva

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

History of Hindu Temples

Historians say Hindu Temples did not exist during the Vedic period (1500 - 500 BC). The remains of the earliest temple structure were discovered in Surkh Kotal, a place in Afghanistan by a French archeologist in 1951. It was not dedicated to a god but to the imperial cult of King Kanishka (127 - 151 AD). The ritual of idol worship which became popular at the end of the Vedic age may have given rise to the concept of temples as a place of worship.

The Earliest Hindu Temples

The earliest temple structures were not made of stones or bricks, which came much later. In ancient times, public or community temples were possibly made of clay with thatched roofs made of straw or leaves. Cave-temples were prevalent in remote places and mountainous terrains.

According to historian, Nirad C Chaudhuri, the earliest structures that indicate idol worship date back to the 4th or 5th century AD. There was a seminal development in temple architecture between the 6th and the 16th century. This growth phase of Hindu temples charts its rise and fall alongside the fate of the various dynasties that reigned India during the period majorly contributing and influencing the building of temples, especially in South India. Hindus consider the building of temples an extremely pious act, bringing great religious merit. Hence kings and wealthy men were eager to sponsor the construction of temples, notes Swami Harshananda, and the various steps of building the shrines were performed as religious rites.

Temples of South India (6th - 18th Century AD)

The Pallavas (600 - 900 AD) sponsored the building of the rock-cut chariot-shaped temples of Mahabalipuram, including the famous shore temple, the Kailashnath and Vaikuntha Perumal temples in Kanchipuram in southern India. The Pallavas style further flourished - with the structures growing in stature and sculptures becoming more ornate and intricate - during the rule of the dynasties that followed, particularly the Cholas (900 - 1200 AD), the Pandyas temples (1216 - 1345 AD), the Vijayanagar kings (1350 - 1565 AD) and the Nayaks (1600 - 1750 AD).

The Chalukyas (543 - 753 AD) and the Rastrakutas (753 - 982 AD) also made major contributions to the development of temple architecture in Southern India. The Cave Temples of Badami, the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal, the Durga Temple at Aihole and the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora are standing examples of the grandeur of this era. Other important architectural marvels of this period are the sculptures of Elephanta Caves and the Kashivishvanatha temple.

During the Chola period the South Indian style of building temples reached its pinnacle, as exhibited by the imposing structures of the Tanjore temples. The Pandyas followed in the footsteps the Cholas and further improved on their Dravidian style as evident in the elaborate temple complexes of Madurai and Srirangam. After the Pandyas, the Vijayanagar kings continued the Dravidian tradition, as evident in the marvelous temples of Hampi. The Nayaks of Madurai, who followed the Vijayanagar kings, hugely contributed to architectural style of their temples, bringing in elaborate hundred or thousand-pillared corridors, and tall and ornate 'gopurams' or monumental structures that formed the gateway to the temples as evident in the temples of Madurai and Rameswaram.

Temples of East, West and Central India (8th - 13th Century AD)

In Eastern India, particularly in Orissa between 750-1250 AD and in Central India between 950-1050 AD many gorgeous temples were built. The temples of Lingaraja in Bhubaneswar, the Jagannath temple in Puri and the Surya temple in Konarak bear the stamp of Orissa's proud ancient heritage. The Khajuraho temples, known for its erotic sculptures, the temples of Modhera and Mt. Abu have their own style belonging to Central India. The terracotta architectural style of Bengal also lent itself to its temples, also notable for its gabled roof and eight-sided pyramid structure called the 'aath-chala'.

Temples of Southeast Asia (7th - 14th century AD)

Southeast Asian countries, many of which were ruled by Indian monarchs saw the construction of many marvelous temples in the region between 7th and 14th century AD that are popular tourist attractions till his day, the most famous amongst them being the Angkor Vat temples built by King Surya Varman II in the 12th century. Some of the major Hindu temples in Southeast Asia that are still extant include the Chen La temples of Cambodia (7th - 8th century), the Shiva temples at Dieng and Gdong Songo in Java (8th - 9th century), the Pranbanan temples of Java (9th - 10th century), the Banteay Srei temple at Angkor (10th century), the Gunung Kawi temples of Tampaksiring in Bali (11th century), and Panataran (Java) (14th century), and the Mother Temple of Besakih in Bali (14th century).

Hindu Temples of Today

Today, Hindu temples across the globe form the cynosure of India's cultural tradition and spiritual succor. There are Hindu temples in all almost countries of the world, and contemporary India is bristled with beautiful temples, which hugely contribute to her cultural heritage. In 2005, arguably the largest temple complex was inaugurated in New Delhi on the banks of river Yamuna. The mammoth effort of 11,000 artisans and volunteers made the majestic grandeur of Akshardham temple a reality, an astounding feat which the proposed world's tallest Hindu temple of Mayapur in West Bengal is aiming accomplish.

The Temple's Journey Through the Ages - Subhamoy Das

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Hindu Wedding Vows

A traditional Hindu wedding ceremony is elaborate and complex, incorporating fifteen specific rituals. There are no vows in the Western sense, but the Seven Steps, or Saptha Padhi, around a flame (honoring the fire god Agni) spell out the promises the couple makes to each other:

"Let us take the first step to provide for our household a nourishing and pure diet, avoiding those foods injurious to healthy living."

"Let us take the second step to develop physical, mental, and spiritual powers."

"Let us take the third step to increase our wealth by righteous means and proper use."

"Let us take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love and trust."

"Let us take the fifth step so that we are blessed with strong, virtuous, and heroic children."

"Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity."

"Finally, let us take the seventh step and be true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock."

Wedding Vows - The Knot

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Eight Types of Hindu Marriage

There are eight types of marriage described in the ancient Hindu text of Manusmriti (Laws of Manu) or "Manava Dharma Shastra":

  • Rite of Brahmana (Brahma) - where the father of the bride invites a man learned in the Vedas and a good conduct, and gives his daughter in marriage to him after decking her with jewels and costly garments.
  • Rite of the Gods (Daiva) - where the daughter is groomed with ornaments and given to a priest who duly officiates at a sacrifice during the course of its performance of this rite.
  • Rite of the Rishis (Arsha) - when the father gives away his daughter after receiving a cow and a bull from the brightgroom.
  • Rite of the Prajapati - (Prajapatya) where the father gives away his daugher after blessing the couple with the text "May both of you perform together your duties"
  • Rite of the Asuras (Demons) - when the bridegroom receives a maiden after bestowing wealth to the kinsmen and to the bride according to his own will.
  • Rite of the Gandharva - the voluntary union of a maiden and her lover, which arises from desire and sexual intercourse for its purpose.
  • Rite of the Rakshasa - forcible abduction of a maiden from her home after her kinsmen have been slain or wounded and their houses broken open.
  • Rite of the Pisaka - when a man by stealth seduces a girl who is sleeping or intoxicated or is mentally disbalanced or handicapped.
As Described in the Laws of Manu - Subhamoy Das

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Malaysia's Fertility Rate Falls

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - - An increasing number of Malaysian couples are seeking fertility treatment as the country's birthrate declines, a newspaper has reported.

A recent United Nations report showed the country's fertility rate dropped from 3.6 babies per couple in 1990 to 2.6 babies currently, the New Sunday Times said.

A key reason for the decline is an increasing fertility problem among Malaysian women, with as many as half of those who visit gynaecological specialists asking for treatment to help them conceive, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said.

"Many of the couples will remain childless unless they are helped using the 'assisted reproductive technology' technique," Liow told the paper.

Liow said between 10 and 15 percent of childless couples in the country, aged between 30 and 40, had fertility problem.

A 2004 government study predicted that Malaysia's fertility rate would decline 0.1 percent every five years, as women postpone marriage and having children.

The study also revealed the number of children being born varied widely according to the educational level of the mother. Women with no formal education had almost twice as many children as those with a tertiary education.

Officials have voiced concerns that the low fertility rate could bring about changes in the country's demographic structure, including a gradual ageing of the population.
Malaysia's population is currently estimated to be almost 27 million. Government policy sets a target of 70 million by the year 2100.

AFP - Sunday, July 12

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