Browsing: Faith

India’s many faiths – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism & Zoroastrianism

7 Diwali 101 – From Darkness to Light

The triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. This simple sentiment is at the heart of the great festival of Diwali which is celebrated in the Hindu Diaspora all across the world. This year it falls on November 11. In this Diwali 101, everything you ever wanted to know about Diwali – check out the videos.

1 Navratri – Goddess Power

They spin round and round, going faster and faster, but never breaking the sacred circle, as they clap their hands rhythmically, dancing around the Garba or earthen pot. They smile as they twirl around for in these nine nights they are celebrating the Goddess that is enshrined in all of us.

This hugely empowering dance is called the Garba and it is the centerpiece of the celebration of the Hindu festival of Navratri or Nine Nights.

3 Ganesh Chaturthi – Celebrating Ganapati Festival

This isn’t Kashi or Prayag but thousands of devotees clog the streets, dancing and chanting as Ganesha’s Ratha Yatra takes place – in Queens, New York. Yes, this pilgrimage spot happens to be in Flushing, Queens, and people came to celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi from as far as California, Florida, Texas, Atlanta – and even India!

It is Lord Ganesha’s birthday and everyone is invited to this giant block party. Over 50,000 lunches are prepared; there are hundreds of pounds of sweets and hundreds of gallons of rose milk. About 20,000 people turn up over the course of nine days at the Hindu Temple Society of North America. (Photo: Chirag D. Shah)

8 2015 Janmashtami – The Birth of Krishna

Lord Krishna is the Cosmic Cowherd, the mischievous deity that Hindus love the most for his pranks, for his butter-thievery, for his melodious flute, for his romantic interludes with Gopis, the milkmaids.
He fought demons, danced on the mighty serpent’s head and lifted Govardhana Hill with his little finger, using it as an umbrella to protect the people from torrential rains.
This year Janmashtami – the birth of Lord Krishna – falls on September 5, 2015.

3 No Monkey Business at Onam

I’m not monkeying around! There really is an Onam feast for monkeys – the guests seem to be having a monkey of a time!
Of course, monkeys are especially beloved because of Lord Hanuman, the monkey god and diehard devotee of Sri Rama. In any Indian town or city, monkeys can do a lot of mischief but get away without punishment due to this divine connection.
During the festival season of Onam, there is a special feast for these honored guests. Watch the video!

4 Rakhi, the Brother-Sister Festival

One of the most anticipated festivals in the Hindu calendar is Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan, the Festival of Threads. This is the day when brothers and sisters renew their bonds and sisters receive money and gifts from their brothers. Now which little girl can argue with that? Lucky are the sisters who have several brothers!

Indeed, if you are Hindu and have a brother, no matter where you are, you will try to meet up with him on Raksha Bandhan which falls this year on August 29. This is an ancient Hindu festival which occurs in the month of shravan on the full moon. Sisters pray for their brothers health and well-being, tying the sacred Rakhi thread on their wrists, and brothers pledge to protect their sisters.

2 What’s in a Name?

Recently US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard got married in a Vedic ceremony in Hawaii. A Hindu, she has even taken her congressional oath on the Bhagavad Gita. Her name Tulsi means the Holy Basil which is so central to Hindu belief. Her mother Carol Gabbard was brought up in the Brahma Madhwa Gaudiya tradition and named her five children Bhakti (worship), Jai (a Hindu salutation), Aryan ( noble one), Tulsi (sacred plant) and Vrindavan ( Lord Krishna’s abode).

It got me thinking – what’s in a name and how can one use such a simple device to enhance the spiritual lives of one’s children? It certainly has deeper connotations than naming a child after candy or a jewelry store!

4 The Power of Chanting in a Stressful World

There’s probably nothing more valuable that you could introduce into your life than chanting. It’s been practiced for centuries in so many different faiths but is especially powerful in the Hindu tradition, where the Shastras and gurus have extolled the virtues of chanting God’s name as an anchor in the turbulence of life.
Listening to a chant can be as powerful as chanting yourself. Whether it is the sages chanting on the banks of the Ganges or a New Yorker commuting to work in the subway and listening to a CD of chants on her earphones, there’s a way to keep the spiritual in your life, no matter what life you’re living.

3 Holi, Hindu festival, Colors New York

Imagine entire streets, neighborhoods drenched in color. Imagine people so immersed in red, purple, green and yellow powders that you can’t distinguish one from the other!
Yes, Holi, the Indian festival of colors is here, heralding Spring and the exuberant love of Radha and Krishna in Mathura. There’s joy, playfulness, a reaching out to friends and strangers. The festival has traveled well to America, brought in as part of the traditions of Hindu immigrants. And on May 2nd it’s being celebrated in a free fun festival by a group of young Indian-Americans in Manhattan.

18 India – A Nurturing Sanctuary for Judaism

At Hanukkah, Indian-Jews remember the homeland which nurtured their faith. “India has been the only country in the world where Jews have never been oppressed or suppressed or discriminated against,” says Romiel Daniel, who is Jewish-Indian-American. Indeed, India has been nurturing home and haven for generations of Jews whose ancestors fled from persecution centuries ago. At its peak there were about 37,000 Jews living in India. “Discrimination is something that has never happened in India for 2000 years and that is something we are very proud of, and that is why we go back to India so often,” he says.

4 In Search of Yoga’s Shining Past

“But isn’t yoga an English word?”

This was the plaintive response one American had when she was told that yoga’s original birthplace was India. Indeed, this ancient practice from India has traveled so far and been so cut off from its moorings that many current day practitioners in the west seem to think it was always a part of American life.

Now comes a comprehensive art exhibition in America, the first of its kind, which through the language of visuals – paintings, sculptures and photographs – traces yoga’s roots back to India, back to Gods and Goddesses, back to spiritual and philosophical aspirations. It can be seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art from June 22 to September 7, 2014.

11 Diwali in India, in America

“Diwali is one holiday I sorely missed when I lived in the US. I remember visiting the Indian stores in the neighborhood to buy my earthen ‘diyas’ (lamps), calling my cleaning service to come and give our home a professionally cleaned look, buying sweetmeats from wherever it was possible.
But I also remember being alone while performing these rituals. I would sheepishly light the diyas on my deck, the window ledges, and the house entrance, guilty that it was against the rules for being a fire hazard!” Guest Blog – Chatty Divas

2 Garba, Dandiya Raas and Navratri

With the upcoming holiday season begins the Indian community’s tryst with tradition in America. Both Garba and Dandiya Raas, folk dances, have found their way to America and everyone from heart surgeons to hip-hop kids are taking to the large dandiya raas arenas during the festival of Navrati which heralds a season of upcoming festivals from Dusshera to Diwali. How has the interaction with America changed Garba and Dandiya Raas?

0 Encountering Ganesha

Lord Ganesha enters people’s lives in mysterious ways – sometimes it can even be just a chance encounter on a busy New York street! When photographer Shana Dressler passed a bookstore in Manhattan, she stopped in her tracks. In the window was a photography book which had on its cover a striking 20-foot high plaster of Paris statue of the elephant-headed God in the water, being splashed by a small army of men.

1 Ganesh Chaturthi – Celebrating the God of Prosperity

The most beloved god in the Hindu pantheon is surely Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the God of Auspicious Beginnings, the one whose presence assures the success of any venture. Whether it is the birth of a child, the opening of a new business or even the buying of a new car, nothing begins without the blessings of the Elephant-headed God. He is beloved by students too because a prayer to Him ensures better grades in an exam.
So it is no surprise that Lord Ganesha’s birthday is a time for great joy and celebration. Ganesh Chaturthi is the 9 day festival celebrating the birth of this joyful deity and is one of the most colorful Hindu festivals. This year the festival is celebrated from September 11 to 20th.

1 How to Find Happiness in an Unhappy World

It costs nothing and you can’t buy it in a store. Yet we all hanker for it. We are talking, of course, about “Happiness” and everyone wants it. There’s nobody who says “I want to be unhappy. I want sorrow.” Yet, happiness is elusive. We all think we will be happy if only we could change our job, our spouse, our status, our lives. If only, if only!

The change happens and initially we are happy but very soon we are once again needing some other change to be really happy.
But what is real, lasting happiness – and how do we find it?

5 Thomas Kelly and the Sadhu Universe

“These sadhus are like a living question that people have forgotten to ask,” says noted photographer Thomas Kelly. “Their painted bodies confront us with essential questions at the heart of existence…provoking the questions, ‘Who am I?’ ‘What do I need?’ ‘What is really important?’”

So as we ponder this, we can take a stroll through the beautiful Rubin Museum of Art situated in frenzied Manhattan and see how the sadhus are trying to make sense of the world.

I’m always intrigued by the fact that this gorgeous museum devoted to the soul and to spirituality was once a highly materialistic shopping heaven – Barneys! Now to walk through it is like being in a temple of peace, and each of us is free to find our own path to salvation.

4 Indian Christians celebrate Christmas in Goa

What can be better than going home for Christmas, especially if home happens to be warm and sunny Goa? Chris and Beverly D’Souza with their young son Luke visited Goa, their hometown, far away from the cold of New York. This story is a Christmas tradition on Lassi with Lavina!

1 Christmas is an Indian Festival Too

While Christmas is important to Indian Christians as a celebration of faith, many non-Christians enjoy it as a secular holiday in ways small and big. Indeed, Christmas is such a huge, high voltage commercialized event in America that few can escape its allure, be they Christians or not.
Some stories are evergreen and resonate year after year. I remember spending a lot of time researching these stories and talking to the families profiled here. For me, these stories are almost like Christmas ornaments that I take out every holiday season to share and add sparkle to the holiday!

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