Tuesday October 24, 2017

Renovation of first Hindu Temple of the Western World almost complete

The magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Western World”

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A hindu temple (representative image). Pixabay

San Francisco, Mar 13, 2017: The historic and extremely expensive renovation process of the magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco, which is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Western World”, is almost complete.

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Old Temple, originally known as Hindu Temple is said to be built within four months. It is a part of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (VSNC), launched by Swami Vivekananda, a highly respected Hindu Monk 1900.

This Temple, sometimes referred as “sermon in the form of a building” and “dedicated to the cause of humanity”, miraculously survived the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 1906.

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During the renovation process which was launched in 2014, the historic character of the temple was claimed to be uncompromised while bringing it up to current standards. The complete renovation included upgrading from foundation to rooftop regarding seismic upgrades, deepening of foundation, plumbing, wiring, fire-sprinkler system, energy efficiency, roofing, etc. It is planned to be open to the public and ready to use sometime in the spring. It was recently re-consecrated with ritual worship by monks and nuns from India, Canada and USA.

Located on Webster Street in San Francisco, this Old Temple was designed by Swami Trigunatitananda with architect Joseph A. Leonard, blending elements of East and West. Its style is influenced by old-fashioned Bengal temples, Shiva temples at Dakshineswar, Benares temples, etc. The building represents a striking profile of towers, domes, and pinnacles; and its various towers “are intended to symbolize the harmony of all religions and the pointed arches and domes the upward aspiration of the spiritual seeker”.

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Rajan Zed, a distinguished Hindu statesman commended efforts of the Society leaders and area community towards executing the thorough and elaborate renovation of this magnificent and important Hindu temple.

President of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, requested the Hindu community in USA, about 3 million strong, to work towards preserving the historical Hindu temples and passing on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations, reported the Asian American Press.

VSNC is affiliated to worldwide spiritual movement Ramakrishna Mission headquartered in Belur Math on the outskirts of Kolkata (India). Besides Old Temple and New Temple in San Francisco; it also maintains Vedanta Retreat in Olema (Marin County, California) founded in 1946 and which occupies over 2000 coastal acres, 160-acres Shanti Ashrama Retreat in Santa Clara County (California) launched in 1900, monastery and convent. Swami Tattwamayananda is Minister-In Charge of VSNC.

Vedanta was introduced to America by Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Since then, the order has more than 180 centres worldwide which includes, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois,  Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, New York and Washington.

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Ideology of Ramakrishna Mission, founded in 1897 by Swami Vivekananda and named after his teacher/inspiration Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and whose current president is Swami Atmasthananda, consists of the eternal principles of Vedanta; while its basic principles include: “God realization is the ultimate goal of life, potential divinity of the soul, harmony of religions,” etc. Its motto is: Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha (For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world). It claims to aim at the harmony of religions, harmony of the East and the West, harmony of the ancient and the modern, spiritual fulfillment, all-round development of human faculties, social equality, and peace for all humanity; without any distinctions of creed, caste, race or nationality.

Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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4 Ships Banned From All Ports For Violating North Korea Sanctions

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South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill for possible attack from North Korea in the water of the East Sea, South Korea. voa

The U.N. Security Council has banned all nations from allowing four ships that transported prohibited goods to and from North Korea to enter any port in their country.

Hugh Griffiths, head of the panel of experts investigating the implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, announced the port bans at a briefing to U.N. member states on Monday. A North Korean diplomat attended the hour-long session.

Griffiths later told several reporters that “this is the first time in U.N. history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports.

He identified the four cargo ships as the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun.

According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China.

Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans.

That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion – about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

The Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions on Sept. 11, responding to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3.

These latest sanctions ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap its crude oil imports. They also prohibit all textile exports, ban all joint ventures and cooperative operations, and bars any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers-key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Both resolutions are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Griffiths told U.N. diplomats that the panel of experts is getting reports that the DPRK “is continuing its attempts to export coal” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We have as yet no evidence whatsoever of state complicity, but given the large quantities of money involved and the excess capacity of coal in the DPRK it probably comes as no surprise to you all that they’re seeking to make some money here,” he said.

Griffiths said the panel is “doing our very best to monitor the situation and to follow up with member states who maybe have been taken advantage of by the tactics deployed by DPRK coal export entities.”

As for joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, Griffiths said the resolution gives them 120 days from Sept. 11 to close down.

But “in a number of cases, the indications are that these joint ventures aren’t shutting down at all but are on the contrary expanding _ and therefore joint ventures is a major feature of the panel’s current investigations,” he said.

Griffiths also asked all countries to pay “special attention” to North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, also known as the Mansudae Art Studio, which is on the sanctions blacklist and subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

According to the sanctions listing, Mansudae exports North Korea workers to other countries “for construction-related activities including for statues and monuments to generate revenue for the government of the DPRK or the (ruling) Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Griffiths said Mansudae “has representatives, branches and affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region, all over Africa and all over Europe.” Without elaborating, he added that “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa.” (voa)

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Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner Used Private email Account for White House officials

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Jared Kushner is senior advisor at the White House .

Washington, Sep 25: US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner has occasionally used a private email account for correspondence with fellow administration officials, his lawyer confirmed.

“Fewer than a hundred emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account,” counsel Abbe Lowell told CNN on Sunday night.

Politico news had first reported Kushner’s use of a private account and said it was set up in December and was used to sometimes trade emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and some others about media coverage.

Lowell said that the emails on Kushner’s private account were “usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal, rather than his White House, address”.

Federal law requires that all White House records be preserved, including emails.

Regarding concerns that some of the emails might not have been preserved since Kushner was not using a White House account, Lowell told CNN: “All non-personal emails were forwarded to his official address, and all have been preserved, in any event.”

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly criticised Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server to send and receive an email during her tenure as Secretary of State.(IANS)

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The Pura Besakih Temple in Bali is Home to 23 Hindu Gods and More ; Exploring The Temple Like a Local

Comprising of 23 temples, the Pura Besakih is located 1,000 meters above the southern slopes of Mount Agung

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The 'Mother Temple', Pura Besakih Temple in Bali, Indonesia has been previously declared as a World Heritage Site. Wikimedia

Bali, September 19, 2017 : From the outside, any ordinary visitor might simply pass by a concrete temple constructed on the slopes of Mount Agung, completely unaware of the holy secrets and the architectural marvels that the structure holds. But if you are a believer of Indian mythology, then you must plan a visit to Pura Besakih temple in East Bali, Indonesia.

The ‘Mother Temple’ in Bali, the largest and the holiest temple on the Island-Pura Besakih is recognized as the primary Hindu temple in Bali and stands tall at a height of 30,000 feet on Mount Agung.

The complex combines at least 86 different shrines together and is delightfully surrounded by mountains, brooks, rice plantations, and the Bali beach at a distance among other extraordinary views.

Pura Besakih
Pura Besakih Temple complex comprise the largest and holiest Hindu shrines in Indonesia. Wikimedia

Ascending up on a stairway, the temple premises resting at the slope echoes a mystical vibe and should be a must stop at every visitor’s list! You can depend on us for the details!

History of Pura Besakih

The exact details of the temple complex’s construction cannot be verified as some locals debate its engineering in the 14th century while others believe they have been around since the 10th century!

The area of the Pura Besakih had since early times revered as a holy place because of the presence of a central stone that now sits in the Pura Batu Madeg.

ALSO READ 5 Most famous Hindu Temples in South East Asia

The Story Behind The Name

Legends believe an 8th century monk had attempted to build homes and settle people in the area. On the completion of his mission, he named the complex ‘Basuki’, referring to the dragon deity ‘Naga Besukian’ who was believed to inhabit Mount Agung.

Over the years, the name evolved to ‘Besakih’ and other shrines were built around the area.

During the conquest of Bali by the Majapahit Empire in 1343, the complex was recognized as the main temple and has been restored several times in the consecutive years due to damage by earthquake.

In 1963, a volcano erupted and the lava flowed past the temples by just a few metres. This was interpreted as a sign of the gods signifying their powers by destroying everything but the temples that their devotees had constructed for them.

Architectural Marvel

Comprising of 23 temples, the Pura Besakih is located 1,000 meters above the southern slopes of Mount Agung.

Carefully carved stepped flight of stairs and terraces ascend to multiple courtyards and brick gateways leading to the chief Meru structure dedicated to Shiva, known as the Pura Penataran Agung.

Designed along a primary axis, the different levels are interpreted as leading the spiritual person ‘upwards and closer to the sacred mountain, where Gods reside’.

Pura Besakih
The central staircase leading up and into the heart of Pura Besakih, Penataran Agung. Wikimedia

At the heart of the temple complex, the Pura Penataran Agung, stands a stunning lotus throne, called the Padmasana dating back to the seventeenth century and comprises the ritualistic focus of the temple.

Pura Besakih’s Temples

An architectural marvel built on seven ascending levels, the Pura Besakih temple is primarily dedicated to the holy Hindu trinity.

  • With white banners, the Pura Penataran Agung forms the heart of the temple complex, dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, the destroyer god of Hinduism. Dotted with aesthetically carved figures from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, a giant stairway allows the pilgrims to ascend to the top of the complex.
  • Decorated with black banners, Pura Batu Madeg, devoted to the preserver Lord Vishnu sits in the northwestern part of the temple
  • Dotted with red banners, Pura Kiduling Kreteg, devoted to the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma is situated across a channel to the southeast of the temple

These shrines, along with 19 other temples stretch across the complex, together make the holiest place of pilgrimage for the devout Balinese.

Pura Besakih
Shrine of a deer-God at Pura Besakih temple. Wikmedia

Closest to Mount Agung’s peak on the higher ground is Pura Batu Tirtha where you can find the foundation of the holy water, known to hold significance for religious ceremonies.

Pura Besakih is the primal centre for all ceremonial activities in Bali. The fact that the temple is the only temple open to every devotee from any caste group touches the heart of all who visit.

Ceremonies And Festivals At the Pura Besakih Temple

The temple complex is almost always bustling with activity and the influx of devotees. There are at least seventy festivals organized annually as almost every shrine commemorates its yearly anniversary known as odalan. This is based on the 210-day Balinese Pawukon calendar. Hence, you are sure to witness and be a part of one odalan irrespective of when you visit the temple

Some of the biggest festivals at Pura Besakih,

  • Batara Tarun Kabeh : The climax of the month’s activities fall on the eve of the tenth lunar month.

Translating to ‘the gods descend together’, the Balinese believe it is on this day that the Gods of all the temple shrines descend together simultaneously. Thus, the days marks an event not to be missed!

  • Temple Festival of Pura Penataran Agung (Odalan) : After every 210 days, the temple anniversary of the biggest single shrine of Besakih is celebrated with immense zeal and fervor. A spectacle of thousands of devotes praying collectively as they climb up the levels to the altars of the trimurti; the sight is heavenly!

Additionally, major holidays and full moon celebrations are also a sight at the Pura Besakih.

During celebrations, the devout Balinese locals dressed in traditional clothing flock the temple premises with a variety of gifts and offerings to please the almighty.

ALSO READ Hindu Temple in Aldenham (UK) Hosts Global Visitors for Largest ‘Hare-Krishna’ celebrations in the world

Visiting Pura Besakih

A day trip from the nearby cities of Ubud or Denpasar is sufficient to explore the Pura Besakih and its adjoining temples around Mount Agung. While the temples remain open to public throughout, they may be closed for tourists on special festivals and days. Make sure you ask the locals in Ubud before making the journey!

Tourism has provided the region with growth explosion and ultimately turned it into a tourist trap- you will come across several alleged ‘temple guards’, hawkers and guides hoping to acquire extra cash from the visitors.

You may seek assistance and hire the official temple guides who charge a nominal price for their services.

Proper dressing is a must at the complex; men and women must cover their legs when inside. Sarongs and sashes can either be procured at rent or bought from the many stalls and shops if needed. However, we recommend that you bargain while buying goods.

How To Reach Pura Besakih Temple

Located in East Bali, dotted on the southern slope of Mount Agung, Pura Besakih can be reached in an hour by car from Ubud. You can also avail the public transport from Ubud and Denpasar, which includes buses and minivans called bemos.

Pura Besakih
You can take a Bemo ride to the temple from Denpasar. Wikimedia

The last bemo ride from the complex to Denpasar leaves from the temple around 3 pm.

Pura Besakih Temple Timings

Pura Besakih is operational from sunrise to dusk. Tour buses, however, begin services around 9 am.

The best time of the day to visit the temple premises are in the early morning and the evenings as the region is much more peaceful at these times.

Pura Besakih Entry Fees

You will be required to pay an entrance fees of $1 at Pura Besakih, and some additional fees (though less than $!) for camera, parking, etc.

ALSO READ Off My Bucket List : 5 Offbeat Travel Destinations for History Lovers

Smart Tip To Make Your Travel Easy

Owing to the popularity of the complex, a number of scams and unnecessary hassles can potentially ruin your experience. Follow the given tips for a smarter travel,

  • Hindu temples necessitate a proper dress code- while sarongs can be rented outside the temple premises but it would be better to carry your own sarongs.
  • Also recommended is to get currency converted before you reach Pura Besakih as the conversion rates in the region keep fluctuating and are not very reliable.
  • Once inside the premises, you will be expected to give an additional donation. However, do not overdo the amount.
  • The temple premises can be independently explored. Do not let locals fool you into hiring a guide.

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