India’s many faiths – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism & Zoroastrianism
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)
Would you be willing to give up your life, your family and your name? Would you renounce love, marriage and parenthood forever? Could you live with the prospect of never seeing your father and mother again?
Bhavesh Choksi, 27, has done exactly that.
This high-achieving young Indian-American, forsaking all, has taken ‘diksha’, monastic vows, and is on his way to becoming a swami in BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a socio-spiritual Hindu organization. For those of us still embroiled in the trappings of the material world, this decision can be wrenching. Breaking all ties with his past life and giving up even the smallest of luxuries, he is turning his back on what most people fight tooth and nail for. Bhavesh is following his dream, walking into a joyous light which most of us cannot even comprehend. He is obtaining ‘moksha’ and guiding others to find it too.
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.
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.
Faith in a higher power infiltrates all of life in India. When things are tough or challenging, you see God is at every corner. There are countless ways spirituality merges into all aspects of life from small roadside shrines to massive temples; how nothing begins without the invocation to Ganesha, be it a new store, a new film or just a school examination.
At Christmas, some beautiful images from Roberto Custodio, all created from recycled materials and old magazine images. What could be more meaningful than an article of faith regenerated from the embers of the old and the discarded?
Infant Jesus of Prague is a famous statue located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Mal Strana, Prague. Thousands of pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague each year. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous healings have been made by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus.
We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and peace in the New Year.
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.
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.
If Thanksgiving is a festival of gratitude, then Indians have been preparing for it their whole lives.
In India, take a walk down the Mumbai waterfront in the early morning mist, and you see ordinary citizens quietly feeding the fish and the birds. Their daily day doesn’t really begin until the deities in their home shrine have been venerated with fresh flowers and offered prasadam.
It is only after eating a little of this blessed offering does the family sit down to their meals. Many remember to keep aside a portion of the food for a hungry person or the birds. It is all about sharing.
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.
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.
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!
Maha Shivaratri – “Himself creates. Himself preserves. Himself destroys.”
For millions of Hindus Mahasivaratri is a very meaningful day, a day of oneness with the Supreme Being. Why do Hindus observe it? What is the Sivalinga? And do believers fast or feast on this day?
If you’ve ever wondered what the different rituals signify, the editors of Hinduism Today share an all-comprehensive report with readers of Lassi with Lavina, dispelling the myths and clarifying the power behind this observance.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen we were young, there was one lesson we learned early from our parents – a respect for knowledge. If we dropped a book by accident, we not only had to pick it up but touch it to our foreheads and our eyes in a mark of contrition.
All learning was sacred.
Here we share the wrappers of those lost, long-gone Diwalis when every kid with a handful of fire-crackers was king – yes, power was setting the match to that bichu or anar firecracker!
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!
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.
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.