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  • Writer's pictureIshaan Tuli

Global Hindu Temple Network

Updated: Mar 21

Newsletter









Connecting Global Threads of Faith


Dear Readers 
In our interconnected world, where the flow of information is unbounded, the narrative of violence against Hindus and their global persecution often goes unnoticed. This edition of our newsletter aims to shed light on these overlooked incidents, offering an unbiased compilation of reports on the violence, persecution, and discrimination faced by Hindus, alongside celebrating Hindu Heritage.
From the bustling streets of New York to the serene landscapes of the United Arab Emirates, and spanning the cultural vibrancy of Nepal and India, we witness a diverse array of faith-based interactions. In New York, the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center embodies Swami Vivekananda's vision of interfaith harmony. The upcoming public opening of Abu Dhabi's first Hindu temple illustrates the UAE's embrace of Hindu heritage.
In our mission to connect the diverse threads of global Hindu heritage, we delve deeper into the incidents in Nepal and India, countries where the vibrancy of Hindu culture is met with challenges that test the resilience of faith and freedom.
Religious Rites amidst Riots, The Struggle for Hindu Traditions in Nepal
In the heart of Nepal, a series of events unfolded that brought to light a tense and precarious environment for Hindu religious practices in certain regions of Nepal, particularly highlighted by the incident in Rautahat, where the immersion of a Goddess Saraswati idol on the occasion of Basant Panchami, led to violent clashes and the imposition of curfew orders in Birgunj and other affected areas. This situation indicates that Hindu religious activities, such as the immersion of idols—a practice integral to Hindu festivals—are subject to approval, negotiation, and sometimes, confrontation with other community groups.
Such incidents not only disrupt the peace but also impede the Hindu community's right to perform their rituals. The clash, reportedly sparked by objections to loud music during a procession, escalated to a point where local authorities had to step in to restore order. Using music accompanying religious processions as a pretext to obstruct Hindu religious celebrations seems to have become a standard tactic of flaunting supremacist and competitive communal behavior.  This speaks volumes about the need for mutual respect and understanding among different communities, ensuring that religious celebrations do not turn into points of contention.
India's Struggle for Religious Autonomy and Heritage Preservation
Moving to India, the landscape of religious rights and heritage preservation paints a complex picture. Recent controversies, such as the legal battle over the names of zoo animals in West Bengal, reflect the deeper sensitivities surrounding religious sentiments and identity. The objection to naming a lioness "Sita" rightfully underscores the profound reverence Hindus have for their deities.
More significantly, the debate over who should manage Hindu temples touches upon the core of religious autonomy. Tamil Nadu, with its rich heritage of ancient temples, has become the epicenter of a movement seeking to free temples from state control. This movement, fuelled by concerns over the mismanagement and alleged exploitation of temple resources, highlights a broader struggle for Hindus to reclaim stewardship over their spiritual heritage.
Furthermore, incidents like the curfew imposed in Rautahat and the legal dispute in West Bengal underscore the challenges Hindus face in practicing their faith and preserving their heritage amidst legal, societal, and political hurdles. These incidents reveal the complexities surrounding religious freedom and the ongoing struggle to navigate a path that respects diverse religious practices while fostering communal harmony.
As we spotlight these incidents from Nepal and India, our newsletter aims to not only inform but also inspire dialogue and action towards ensuring that Hindu heritage is celebrated, protected, and respected across the globe. We invite our readers to engage with us, share their perspectives, and contribute to a world where faith and freedom walk hand in hand. Together, let's continue to unravel and honour the global threads of Hindu heritage that bind us all.
Your insights and feedback are crucial to our journey. Please share your thoughts and let us collectively enrich the tapestry of our shared heritage.

Sincerely 
Dr Vinay Nalwa 


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February Newsletter # 2 (Feb 15 – Feb 29)

United States of America

At a Sunday morning service, a priest gave a sermon, a choir sang devotional hymns and a congregation bowed heads in a joint prayer.

It was a typical Sunday for these faithful New Yorkers. Yet rather than a church, this service took place at a spiritual home meant for believers under any name, from Christians to Hindus to self-professed “truth-seekers.”

The Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, built for the revered Indian monastic who brought the interfaith teachings of Vedantic Hinduism to America and his guru, is the gathering place for devotees of his philosophy, which accepts every faith as a “valid means for its own followers to realize the Truth.”

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United Arab Emirates

The first Hindu stone temple in Abu Dhabi, which was inaugurated earlier this month, will be opened to the public from March 1. From February 15 to 29, overseas devotees who had registered in advance or VIP guests were allowed to visit the temple.

“The temple will be open to the public from March 1 from 9 am to 8 pm. The temple will remain closed for visitors every Monday,” a temple spokesperson said. Community members who wish to visit the temple from March 1 have been requested to register through a dedicated website or the Festival of Harmony app. The UAE has at least 3.5 million Indians who are part of the Indian workforce in the Gulf.

The land for the temple was donated by the UAE government. The temple has been built by the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) on a 27-acre site in Abu Mureikhah, near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway, at a cost of around Rs 700 crore. The grand temple was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Modi on February 14 during a dedication ceremony attended by over 5,000 invitees


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Nepal

The Parsa District Administration Office clamped an indefinite curfew in Birgunj after tensions ran high in the metropolis following protests over Friday’s incident in Rautahat.

Birgunj also imposed an indefinite curfew after two different groups started protesting, raising the risk of a potential clash. Police in large numbers were deployed to prevent untoward incidents.

In various places in the Tarai, clashes often occur between groups during the immersion of idols of various gods and goddesses. Authorities claim they have no alternative to clamping curfew as a preventive measure to prevent violent confrontation.  

“The immersion of Saraswati’s idol was possible after an all-party meeting held in Gaur, the district headquarters of Rautahat, reached a consensus on the matter earlier on Monday,” said Hiralal Regmi, the chief district officer of Rautahat.

A large number of security personnel have been deployed in the area. “The all-party meeting has agreed to organise a goodwill march in Ghiura village. Situation has gradually turned to normalcy,” said Pokharel.


An incident turned violent when a group of locals, who were heading towards a lake to immerse an idol of goddess Saraswati, were obstructed by another group for allegedly playing loud music. 

The locals had then aborted the ritual, staying on the road with the idol. Early on Saturday, the two sides had held talks under the coordination of the local unit and reached an agreement to let the ritual continue and maintain communal harmony.

However, the situation grew tense after some factions of the crowd pelted stones, protesting against the decision, said Superintendent of Police Mahendra Shrestha.

Chief District Officer Hiralal Regmi imposed the prohibitory order until further notice after a clash ensued between two groups at around 5pm in Ghiuratole of Ishnath Municipality-7 took a nasty turn.


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India

An Indian court has ordered a zoo in West Bengal state to change the names of two lions after a Hindu group complained it hurt their religious sentiments. The lioness was named after Hindu deity Sita while the lion was called Akbar, after the 16th Century Mughal ruler.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) challenged this, saying that naming the lioness after a goddess was blasphemous. The two big cats currently live in the North Bengal Wild Animals Park in Siliguri district.

On Thursday, the court said that animals should not be named after “Hindu gods, Muslim Prophets, [revered] Christian figures, Nobel laureates and freedom fighters”. “You could have named it Bijli [lightning] or something like that. But why give names such as Akbar and Sita?” Justice Saugata Bhattacharya asked.


 

“Gyanvapi is the original temple, we need it back soon…I hope that the courts will be quicker than in Ayodhya…” — Brij Bhushan Ojha, a trustee of the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, told News18 last week. He was pointing to the Gyanvapi Mosque behind him, which is visible from the Neelkanth Bhawan, the office of the temple’s CEO.

Ojha’s wish is also reflected in the ‘impatience’ of many devotees at the temple who make it a point to look at the white-coloured mosque beyond the iron bars that separate the mosque complex from the temple premises. Nearly everyone here knows about the ASI report pointing to tell-tale remnants of a Hindu temple at the mosque as well as the Hindu prayers that were recently started at the Vyas Tehkhana (southern cellar) of the mosque after court’s orders. 

The wazukhana shed, under which the Hindu side claims is the original Shivling, can be seen partially from a spot across the Nandi deity in the temple premises. Paramilitary forces stand guard at the temple-mosque boundary, on the high-watch towers, and many CCTVs are in place.


 

When Tamil Brahmin priest Ramachandran received an invitation to work in a temple in Ayodhya, his first thought was to say no. His priority was elsewhere—to wrest his temple in Tamil Nadu away from the state government’s control.

And Ramachandran isn’t alone who thinks the state is out to loot Tamil temples of their land, jewels, and rightful earnings —his grouse is now part of the new temple freedom movement that has been bubbling in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. The epicentre, though, is Tamil Nadu where a long and arduous fight is being fought in the courts by T R Ramesh President of Temple Worshippers Society (@trramesh) for two decades.

The priest, Ramachandran is adamant that the government is out to ridicule and humiliate Hindus. “They do not care about our pain.” One recent example is of Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah passing the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment (Amendment) Bill, which mandates the government to collect 10 per cent tax from temples with revenue over Rs 1 crore. 

The state is home to over 46,000 temples, including some of the oldest and most sacred temples in the country. Other states in India look to Tamil Nadu and its 1959 Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Act as a blueprint for temple administration, but many see the government’s role as direct interference with Hinduism.

 

The ‘Maha Kumbhabhishekam’ ritual was performed with great religious fervour at the Bhramaramba Sametha Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy temple in Srisailam on Wednesday.

The consecration ritual, which began on February 16 where pontiffs from various Peethams and Mutts (monasteries), such as Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt pontiff Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi, Srisaila Jagadguru Peetham pontiff Sri Chenna Siddharama Panditaradhya Sivacharya, Pushpagiri Peetham pontiff Sri Vidyashankara Bharathi, and Kashi Peetham pontiff Sri Mallikarjuna Viswaradhya Sivacharya participated.

The consecration was necessitated by the renovation of Sivaji Gopuram, several sub-shrines, three of the five ‘Pancha Mutts’ and the installation of Sivalinga and Nandi deities in the temple complex.

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We welcome your feedback and suggestions on our global media report covering Hindu heritage and the challenges faced by Hindus worldwide. Your insights are invaluable in fostering greater understanding and awareness. Please share your thoughts on our email and let us continue this important conversation together.


 

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