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Sri Balaji Temple Chicago Celebrates the 1,000th birth anniversary of Sri Ramanuja Acharya  

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Chicago, Illinois, May 9, 2017: This year marks the millennium, 1,000th birth anniversary (Sahasrabdi) of the legendary Sri Ramanuja Acharya.  Hindus around the globe celebrated this memorable event by paying tribute to the great Acharya who worked tirelessly, and selflessly for the betterment of humanity.
Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) temple of greater Chicago conducts Religious functions in an authentic style with a team of dedicated and well-trained priests from Tirupati.  The Temple management with profound dedication celebrated this auspicious occasion in a grand manner on April 29, and April 30.

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The Celebrations included Religious and Cultural activities with enthusiastic participation from youths as well as adults from the community.  An estimated 1,000+ devotees from Chicagoland area and neighboring states, as well as territories that are far like California, participated in the two-day celebration to pay tribute to the spiritual master.
 
Sri Ramanuja Acharya was born in 1017 AD in a small town called Sri Perembudur, near Chennai, and lived for 120 years.  He was a spiritual leader with strong intellect who mastered the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures at a very young age.
He was a visionary who systematically expounded philosophical truths and synthesized Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion) into a philosophy called Visishtadvaita.  He was a leader and a social reformer who broke barriers and worked for the betterment of everyone without regard to gender, creed or caste. 
He perceived God as the Super Divine that is all-pervasive, all-inclusive, all-potent, and all merciful.  He had the vision that everyone should be able to reach God and attain moksha (salvation), through utmost love for God through Saranagati (self-surrender), and Bhakti (devotion). 

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Sri Ramanuja Acharya enlightened this path through his teachings and practices recorded in his nine-spiritual works in Sanskrit.  He introduced several religious practices to complement the established Agama worship procedures in temples.  These practices are followed even today at all Vaishnava temples including major temples like Tirupati.

 
The Religious programs for the Millennium celebrations at Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) temple was conducted by the team of Vaishnava priests with overflowing devotion and enthusiasm.  The religious program highlights included abhishekam for Sri Balaji (Utsava Murthy) and Sri Ramanuja Acharya; Homam (Havan) for the Acharya; Utsavam (ceremonial procession) for Sri Balaji and Sri Ramanuja Acharya; Vedic Chants, Prabandha and Stothra Parayanams rendered by Parayana Gosti lead by the temple priests; Bhajans by a team of devoted Ladies.  To commensurate the special Millennium celebrations, several devotees joined hands and made an offering of “Kireetam” (crown) for the great Acharya. 

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The cultural programs featured youths and adults from the temple devotee community.  The program highlights included a drama in English by youths depicting key events of the life of Sri Ramanuja; Music concert capturing devotional hymns; Bhajans and Quiz contest by temple youths; Villu Patu (bow song) and Kolattam (Musical play and dance with sticks) presented by youths.
 
The celebrations concluded with the grand finale Drama in Tamil “Ettram Thantha Ethirajar” featuring selected milestones of the life of Sri Ramanuja Acharya.  The two-hour play was showcased by a cast of 44 people. 
The play was directed by Sri Sekar Chandrasekar and produced by Sri Narayan Thirumalai.  This was followed by a dance program by Natya Dance Theater called “Ramanujar Kanda Pokkisham” choregraphed by Sri Hema Rajagopalan. 
The musical dance program captured the works and Bhakti of Alwars, the saints, as seen through the eyes of Sri Ramanuja Acharya.  The program concluded with Dr. Prabhakar Gupta Garla, Chairman of the temple thanking all the Devotees, Temple staff, Priests and the Volunteers that poured their hearts to make the function a grand success. 
 
The Millennium celebrations of Sri Ramanuja Acharya at the temple was blissful with our Devotees immersed in devotion and excitement.  The event was complemented with Annadanam, servings of scrumptious lunch and dinner for everyone for both days. The feelings of the participants can only be captured like this …” This is a remarkable event that we will remember forever.”
Let us cherish Sri Ramanuja Acharya’s teachings every day as his legacy lives on.  Let us pay tribute to this Legend on this auspicious millennium 1,000th year birth celebrations and remember him for all the sacrifices he made for the enlightenment of humanity. 

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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