Thursday November 23, 2017

San Francisco’s Hindu Chariot Procession Enters 51st Year on July 30

Amidst sounds of conch shells and holy chants, the procession witnesses devotees from all walks of life, celebrating and exhibiting the richness of the Hindu tradition.

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Rathayatra Parade s an annuallu organized festival in San Francisco.
The Rathayatra Parade witnesses immense zeal and enthusiasm of the devotees every year. Wikimedia

SAN FRANCISCO, JULY 28, 2017: The 51st Annual San Francisco Rathayatra Parade will be held on July 30.

The “Festival of the Chariots” (Rathayatra Festival) involves a parade with people pulling three chariots by ropes throughout Golden Gate Park. It also includes free vegetarian feast, live music, ancient Indian dances, etc. Thousands of people have reportedly been attending these free festivities in the past.

This parade is organized by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Berkeley (New Jagannatha Puri). ISKCON Berkeley Temple, said to be one of the ISKCON’s oldest temples in the world, opens daily at 04-30 am with Mangal Arati and holds Tulsi ((Holy Basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum) Puja (worship) every day. Jagannatha Swami Dasa is the Temple President. According to ISKCON, Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or God.

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It is popularly deemed important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts, and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society. It has been stressed time and again that instead of running after materialism; we should focus on inner search and realization of Self and work towards achieving moksha (liberation), which is the goal of Hinduism. The Rathayatra Parade is thus organized annually to exhibit the richness of Hinduism.

ALSO READ: Rath Yatra 2016: Lord Jagannath begins his 9-Day sojourn amid tight security

Rath Yatra is said to be the oldest known parade in the world and it is believed that pullers of this Lord Jagannatha’s chariot receive immense spiritual benefit. Popularized outside India by ISKCON founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, this annual parade festival has reportedly been held annually in over 100 cities around the world since 1967.

 

Jagannath Rath Yatra is a an annual festival held in Puri.
Idol of Lord Jagannath at the Puri Rathyatra (2016) Wikimedia

The original Ratha Jatra is held on a grand scale in Puri (Odisha, India), where the presiding deities of Sri Mandira—Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra—with celestial wheel Sudarshana are driven on the chariots to about two miles north Gundicha temple in an elaborate ritual procession, where the huge colorfully decorated chariots are drawn by thousands of devotees.

After a stay of seven days, the deities return to their abode in Sri Mandira. A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be highly auspicious and even a touch of the chariot is believed to yield benefits equivalent to several pious deeds. Many poets have written its glories. This year, it was held on June 25.

The practice of Rathayatra has recurring references in Hindu holy texts. Ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad talks about the concept of chariot, where soul is the deity, body is the chariot, and intellect the charioteer. Skanda Purana also glorifies Rath Jatra’s sanctity.


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Diwali Puja 2017: Everything You Need To Know About Timings, Muhurat

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Ganesh-Lakshmi are worshipped
Ganesh-Lakshmi are worshipped by devotees on the day of Diwali. Pixabay

New Delhi, October 18, 2017: Diwali is around the corner and everyone is busy with the preparations. On the eve of Diwali, the most important ritual is to perform Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja during the right muhurat (time) and with the right rituals(vidhi).

Here are some of the things you must take care of:

Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja Rituals

It is important that on the day of Diwali, you wake up early in the morning and pay homage to your ancestors and worship gods of your family. It is advised to observe a day-long-fast until the Ganesh-Lakshmi puja is performed in the evening.

Kalash pujan
Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja kalash. Wikimedia

Preparations For Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja

Families can embellish their home and office with Asoka and Marigold flowers, banana and mango leave on the day of the puja. Mangal Kalash covered with unpeeled coconut should be placed at both side of the main entrance of your house.

For puja preparation, place at the right hand side a red cloth on a hoisted platform and put in idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on it after gracing them with jewellery and clothes. Once this is done, Navgraha gods must be placed on the left hand side on a hoisted platform under white cloth. Prepare carefully nine slots of Akshata (unbroken rice) for placing Navgraha on white cloth and sixteen slots of wheat must prepared for the red cloth. You should perform puja with all the important rituals.

Idols of Ganesh-lakshmi are being worshipped on the eve of Diwali. Wikimedia

Timings (Muhurat) for Lakshmi Puja

Pradosh Kaal muhurat is the time during which puja needs to be performed. It starts after sunset and lasts for about 2 hours and 24 minutes. Goddess Lakshmi will stay in your home if you perform Lakshmi puja in the Pradosh Kaal when it is Sthir Lagna time. Sthir refers to ‘immovable.’  Before you do the puja, make sure you find out Pradosh Kaal (time) for your city or area. It is important that you know the right time to perform the puja.

– prepared by Siddheshwar Sharma. Twitter: @MancSiddheshwar

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Diwali 2017: Significance of the Diwali, Celebrations & Rituals, Date & Diwali Recipes

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Diwali
Deepawali 2017: 19th october'2017
  • Deepawali or Diwali is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals.
  • Diwali or Deepawali is the festival of lights: “Deep+awali”: deep means “light” and awali “a row,” so, deepawali means “a row of lights”.
  • Diwali is marked by four days of celebration, which literally illuminates the country with its brilliance and dazzles all with its joy.
  • The Diwali festival occurs in late October or early November. It falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month, Kartik, so it varies every year.

About Diwali:

Diwali (Deepawali) is considered to be the most significant festival in India. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil and the power of  light over darkness. The preparations of Diwali starts days before in which people clean their houses and offices and decorate them with lights and Diyas ( oil lamps) .

When is Diwali? – Diwali 2017 falls on 19th October 2017

Significance of Diwali

Diwali marks the homecoming of Lord Rama with his wife Sita after killing the evil king Ravana. He was sent to 14 – year – exile by his father, King Dushrath during which he was wandering in forests and villages of India. On this special occasion of his return to ayodhaya, the capital of Lord Rama, people decorated the whole kingdom with oil lamps and busted crackers with joy.

Diwali Celebrations and Rituals

On this auspicious occasion of diwali people welcome goddess Laxmi in their houses by lighting traditional earthen Diyas ( oil lamps) , making colorful rangoli , decorating house with flowers  and placing paduka (footsteps of goddess Laxmi)  at the entrance. Also there is a tradition of exchanging gifts and sweets with friends and family and donating food and goods to the needy. People wear new clothes and prepare tasty sweets and food delicacies at their home. At night Laxmi Puja takes place for the wealth and prosperity in the house after which people go outside to fire crackers and enjoy the festival.

Special Recipe to Serve on Diwali

With the joy of festival and stress free work schedules we often forget to keep check on our weight and calorie intake. And thanks to the goodies we receive and sweets which we make at home containing loads of sugar. To avoid the unnecessary weight gain and calories , here is a mouthwatering yet low calorie recipe of Oats Laddu which you can easily prepare at home this Diwali.

Ingredients:

  • Dates – ½ Cup
  • Oats – ¼ Cup
  • Cashew nuts – ¼ Cup
  • Almonds – ¼ Cup
  • Dry Coconut – ¼ Cup (shredded)
  • Powdered Sugar as per taste
  • Green Cardamom Powder – ½ tsp
  • Ghee as required

Preparation:

  1. Remove seeds from dates and chop them.
  2. Dry roast oats, cashew nuts and almonds, shredded coconut separately.
  3. Coarsely grind dates, oats, cashew nuts and almonds separately.
  4. Heat pan and add 1 tbsp ghee.
  5. Now add ground oats, cashew nuts, almonds, shredded coconut, green cardamom powder. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes on slow flame. Stir continuously.
  6. When the mixture starts to come together switch off the flame.
  7. Transfer the mixture into the large mouth bowl and add powdered sugar and some ghee (if required for binding). Mix well and allow this mixture to cool down.
  8. Shape the mixture into small balls like laddu and serve.

 

Gift Ideas for Diwali

There is an old tradition of exchanging gifts on Diwali with our family and friends as it adds to the happiness of our loved ones. Here are some of the unique gift items which you can gift to your close ones:

Personalized gift items: Colorful earthen pots, diyas, mugs and cushions designed with your choice of painting and colors can be a cool gift for your friends and family.

 Diwali cupcakes: Sweet with a message can be a unique gift for your loved ones. You can gift a box of cupcakes with Diwali theme running through them to your friends.

Online gift vouchers: You can gift your friends online shopping gift vouchers of leading online shopping portals like Amazon , Flipkart , Snapdeal , Jabong and many others to treat them with gift products of their own choice.

Prepared by Pragya Mittal | Twitter @PragyaMittal05

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Recent Trends among the Indian Diaspora and its Increasing Significance

As the Indian diaspora is increasingly organizing itself in the host countries by accumulating the resources, it may have potential impact on the economic, social and political landscape in India.

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Indian Diaspora
Indian Diaspora organizing community identity in the host country

The Indian diaspora is a generic term representing the people who migrated from the Indian territories to the other parts of the world. It includes the descendants of these groups. Today, over twenty million Indians which include Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin are residing outside the Indian territory as Indian diaspora. According to a UN survey report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world. In 2005, Indians formed the world’s third-largest diaspora. The Indians who settled overseas in the 1960s for more developed countries such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and Western Europe formulate the category of the New Diaspora.

What are the popular host countries for the Indian Diaspora:

The 2010 estimates of Census data of US, UK and Canada suggest that Indian diaspora constitutes three million people in US, 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom and one million in Canada. Indians are the fourth largest immigrant group in the United States. Also, five million emigrants from India residing in the Gulf region at present.

The History of Indian Diaspora:

A brief overview of the history of Indian diaspora suggests that the first group of Indians immigrated to Eastern Europe in the 1st century AD from Rajasthan during the reign of Kanishka. Yet another evidence of migration was witnessed in 500 AD when a group immigrated to Southeast Asia as the Cholas extended their empire to Indonesia and Malaysia thereby spreading the Indian culture in these states. Thus the early evidence of the diaspora was found during ancient times. The medieval period witnessed the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism during the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Mughals took Indians as traders, scholars, artists, musicians, and emissaries to the other parts of the country.

Old Diaspora:

The first wave of the Modern Indian Diaspora, also called the Old Diaspora, began in the early 19th century and continued until the end of the British rule. The Dutch and French colonizers followed the suit. Indians were sent in large numbers to become the bonded labourers for sugar and rubber plantation in their colonies.

Indians in Caribbean, Africa, and Asia:

By the end of World War 1, there were 1.5 million Indian laborers in the colonies in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. At present, around 60% of Indian diaspora is constituted of this Old Diaspora.

Impact of Immigration policies on Migration from India:

After the Indian independence, a large number of unskilled and some skilled Punjabi male Sikhs migrated to the UK from India due to favorable immigration policies in the United Kingdom. Similarly, the 1990s onwards, due to software boom and its rising economy, H-1B was introduced in the US immigration policy that allowed the entry of highly skilled IT specialists, doctors, scientists and engineers in the US. Further, the 1970s witnessed oil boom in the Middle East that led to significant growth of Indian diaspora in the Gulf region.

While the low skilled and semi-skilled workers are moving to the Gulf region for better economic opportunities, highly skilled labor is moving from India to US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Has Indian Diaspora started impacting the economies and societies:

With the growing rate of international migration since the beginning of millennia, there is a significant impact of diaspora on the economies and societies of the world. In recent years, the diaspora is influencing the economic, political and cultural affairs in their homeland. It is so because the influence of the diaspora communities increases as they organize themselves and accumulate resources in their host countries for several years. The mobilized diaspora are now influencing the affairs of the homeland countries. A common form of exchange is the financial remittances provided to the relatives by the diaspora community. Overseas family networks of the political elites in India are shaping the political landscape as well. Culturally, the diaspora is influencing the music and literature trends in India as the content is consciously structured to cater to the tastes of the diaspora.

What actions have been taken by the government of India to tap the potential of Indian Diaspora:

The first Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was organized in 2003 by the Government of India to expand and reshape the state of India’s economy by the use of the potential human capital which the Indian diaspora reflects. Clearly, Indian diaspora has a larger role to play in the Indian economy over the coming years as the efforts to mobilize them increase in the homeland.