Tuesday April 24, 2018

Annual Hindu Thaipusam Fest celebrated by thousands in Malaysia

Temples all across Malaysia were filled with huge crowds of Hindu devotees who came together from faraway lands to celebrate the Thaipusam festival

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Malaysia
A fete during Hindu Thaipusam fest, Facebook
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Batu Caves (Malaysia), Feb 9, 2017: Temples across Malaysia were filled with more than a million Hindus today to celebrate the annual Thaipusam festival. Many even pierced their bodies with hooks and skewers to show devotion to the deity Lord Murugan.

According to PTI, Massive crowds filled with devout Hindus and other enthusiasts descended on the stunning Batu Caves temple complex on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur to be a part of the festival, which commemorates the day when the goddess Parvathi bestowed her son Lord Murugan with a powerful lance to fight evil demons.

With handful of gifts including milk pots and coconuts which are eventually smashed as offerings, worshippers walked barefoot up 272 steps to reach the temple which is an important religious site for Tamil Hindus.

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Many displayed their dedication by carrying heavy ornate metal structures called kavadis, affixed to their bodies with sharp metal spikes that are hammered into the skin. Some devotees looked like they were in a state of trance as they carried the kavadis, which can weigh as much as 100 kilogrammes or even more.

Some of them pierced their faces with tridents or hung multiple hooks and chains from their bodies in an act of penance.

While talking to PTI, A.Yuven, a devotee said, “My brother is carrying a kavadi today to help the family and… also for our other brother who is suffering from a neurological disorder,” as a group of men chanted prayers and percussionists encouraged and cheered.

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Prior to Thaipusam ceremony, devotees are supposed to typically join daily prayer sessions, abstain from sex and stick to a strict vegetarian diet for weeks.

“I have no special demands. I am just here to offer my prayers,” said Aiyya Valmundi, who has been participating in Thaipusam festivities for more than a decade.

Even though most of Malaysia’s roughly 31 million people are Muslim, the country has around two million ethnic Indians. Most of the Indians are descendants of laborers brought from ethnic Tamil areas of southern India by former British colonial masters of Malaysia.

Lord Murugan is particularly worshipped in southern India and among ethnic Tamil communities in South East Asia.  Thaipusam is also celebrated in India and Singapore with great excitement and enthusiasm.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

 

 

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

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Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.