Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 10 (IANS) The first signs that Christmas is around the corner in Kerala comes in early December, when the mercury dips slightly. That’s when the morning stroll becomes a pleasant experience.
Churches and Christian homes begin to put up the traditional Christmas stars, in varying sizes and shapes. Cribs are put up in the second week of December. Now-a-days, these are often ready-made.
Nearly 22 percent of the state’s population is Christian, an estimated 32 million people.
“Times have changed, so have customs. Gone are the days when the entire family used to get together to make wine, pickles and other food items. These days, who has the time; and then, where are the people to do those things,” asks 75-year-old Santhamma Joseph, a grandmother in Kottayam.
The districts of central Kerala, like Kottayam, are home to a large number of Christians.
“These days, the youth get set to conduct the traditional carol singing. Members of the church choirs go to the homes of parishoners to sing Christmas carols, and the families usually offer these groups a little money once the singing is done. This year, we are targeting a net of Rs. two lakh from the carol service. The money collected will be used as a reserve fund for the youth activities,” said Anish Jacob, an IT professional and convenor of the church choir of his church in Thiruvananthapuram.
Catholics are the dominant group, comprising 50 percent of the state’s Christians. Orthodox Christians are the second-largest denomination in the state, with a population of around 2.5 million. Members of the Jacobite, Mar Thoma, Church of South India and Pentecostal churches make up the rest.
At Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s official residence in the capital city, a 10-foot-tall Christmas tree has been put up, and the Christmas crib is ready too. The 70-year-old mansion is all decked up for the festival, perhaps the first time it has seen such decoration.
The only other Christian chief minister the state has had, A.K. Antony, who also lived in this home as chief minister, was renowned for parsimony and spartan in his Christmas celebrations.
Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the sole wholesalers of liquor and beer in the state, are busy making special preparations for Christmas. All 383 retail outlets of the corporation will be stocked to capacity, in anticipation of Christmas.
Bursting of crackers on Christmas eve is a recent practice, limited to the central districts of the state. In other parts, the festival is marked by more subdued festivities, with traditional cuisine and the popular Christmas cake.
“We have started baking cakes on a limited scale, and work will peak by the end of next week. Last year we could not meet the demand. This year, we are better prepared,” says the owner of a popular bakery in Thiruvalla city, which is thickly populated with Christians.
New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) The government Tuesday said it has released over Rs.130 million for computerising the records of the Waqf Boards across the country.
Ninong Ering, minister of state for Minority Affairs, said over Rs.130 million has been released under the scheme launched in December 2009.
In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Ering said the main objective of the scheme was to streamline record keeping, registration of waqf boards, digitization for preservation of their records, tracking of legal cases and computerisation of the various functions of the state waqf boards.
Under the scheme, centralized computing facility has been set up in 25 states and union territories.
Lucknow, Dec 4 (IANS) Two days before the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, the Uttar Pradesh Police has been put on high alert and all religious and political processions have been banned in Faizabad district, an official said Tuesday.
Top police officials have held a video conference with police chiefs in the 75 districts of the state and instructions to maintain law and order have been issued, Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Law and Order, Arun Kumar told IANS.
“We have held a video conference meeting with all district police chiefs and large-scale arrangements are being made to ensure a peaceful Dec 6,” he said.
In addition to the 14 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) in the high security “red zone” and “yellow zone” of the disputed area in Ayodhya, eight more PAC companies have been deployed.
Five companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) are also being deployed for Dec 6.
Faizabad has been divided into 15 zones and 30 sectors and magistrates and circle officers (police) have been given charge of these areas, Dharmendra Singh, senior superintendent of police, Faizabad, said.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — which bans gathering of more than four people in public places — has also been enforced.
The 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh was demolished by a mob Dec 6, 1992.
Patna, Dec 1 (IANS) Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will inaugurate a three-day international Buddhist convention here in January 2013, an official said Saturday.
The Dalai Lama will open the meet at the Buddha Memorial Park Jan 5, Patna Divisional Commissioner E.L.S.N. Prasad told IANS.
More than 1,500 delegates and followers of Buddhism, including from Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar and Japan, were expected to take part, the official said.
Delegates would deliberate on different aspects of Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama inaugurated the Buddha Smriti Park, a sprawling 22-acre park in the heart of Patna and dedicated to Lord Buddha, in 2010.
The Dalai Lama has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959 when he fled his homeland after Chinese Communist troops took over Tibet.
New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has launched an indefinite hunger strike here to protest “the arrest of Muslim youth in the name of fighting terrorism” and has also demanded a white paper on the banned Indian Mujahideen outfit, which has been held responsible for terrorist attacks in India.
The hunger-strike, which was launched Nov 26, is being held at Batla House Chowk in Jamia Nagar locality of south Delhi – the scene of a controversial gun battle in 2008 between alleged Indian Mujahideen terrorists and a Delhi Police team after the serial blasts in the city.
The hunger-strike was launched in the presence of LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and is being led by the party’s national youth wing secretary general Amanatullah Khan.
“We want to know the people who are behind the Indian Mujahideen. If they are among us, we want to expose them. We are unnecessarily being harassed due to them. We demand a white paper on Indian Mujahideen in parliament. If our demands are not met within a week, we will go on hunger-strike at the residence of the prime minister,” LJP national secretary general Abdul Khalik told IANS.
Many Muslim youths have been acquitted of terror charges by the courts in the past few years after they were found innocent, he said.
Khan demanded setting up of a fast track court to try terrorism cases.
“When youths are declared innocent after spending 10-12 years behind bars, their life and their family’s life is destroyed. So a fast track court will try the case quickly and help save the innocent from harassment,” he said.
The party’s national youth president Sanjay Saraf said, “If any person arrested for a bomb blast is a terrorist, punish him, but if someone is released after spending 12 years in jail the police officials responsible for his plight should be punished and the innocent person should be rehabilitated with economic support from the government.”
Commenting on the arrests in terrorism related cases, Saraf said: “If there is a raid, the police personnel should be in uniform and should possess a proper warrant for the arrest.”
Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 30 (IANS) Rev Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church who was elevated as cardinal at a ceremony at the Vatican six days ago, returned here Friday to an impressive welcome.
At 53 years old, he is the youngest of all the 211 cardinals of the Catholic Church.
He is also one of 89 cardinals who have voting rights to elect the next pope, and might well himself be a papal candidate.
There are, at present, seven cardinals from India.
Only those cardinals below 80 years of age have voting rights to elect the pope, so only four Indian cardinals have such rights.
“I was really honoured to have a multi-racial team from here to witness my ordination and I am thankful to all for that. As a result of this delegation coming to Rome, I could show the secular credentials of our country to the world,” said the modest “young” cardinal.
The team from the state included bishops from other Christian denominations, Hindu seers, a Muslim moulavi, a string of senior political leaders from various parties, besides close to 300 faithful of his church.
Cleemis Catholicos is also the first major archbishop from the Kerala-based Syro Malankara Church to be elevated as cardinal.
From Kerala, the three churches under the pope include the Syro-Malabar, Latin and the Syro-Malankara churches.
In February this year, 66-year-old Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, Mar George Alencherry was ordained cardinal.
Bhubaneswar, Nov 28 (IANS) People from various age groups floated tiny boats in ponds, rivers and sea across coastal Odisha Wednesday to celebrate the auspicious ‘Kartika Purnima’ to remember the state’s glorious maritime past.
Thousands of people, among them women and children, performed ‘Boita Bandana’ ritual near Dhabaleswar temple in Cuttack and Bindusagar pond in state capital Bhubaneswar.
Similar crowds were seen in Puri and on Paradip beach, officials and witnesses said. A large number of devotees also visited temples.
The Jagannath temple in Puri, about 56 km from here, saw a crowd of nearly half a million, said an official.
In ancient times, sea traders known here as ‘sadhabas’, would begin their sea voyages on the full moon day of Kartika month of the Hindu calendar to the Indonesian island of Bali.
The days are now gone, but people float tiny boats made out of cork and colour paper and perform the ritual ‘Boita Bandana’ (worshipping of voyage) every year to remember the past glory.
Chandigarh, Nov 28 (IANS) Hundreds of devotees lined up at gurdwaras across Punjab and elsewhere in the country Wednesday to celebrate Gurpurab − the birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
Tight security arrangements were in place outside famous gurdwaras in Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Talwandi Sabo and other places in Punjab.
There was heavy rush of devotees at the Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, in Amritsar as people arrived to offer prayers. Devotees had started coming to the holiest of Sikh shrines Tuesday night itself.
The whole Golden Temple complex has been illuminated for the past few days.
‘Langars’ (community kitchens) were organised at all gurdwaras across Punjab and along major highways Tuesday.
Religious processions were taken out by the Sikh community in most cities and towns in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh Tuesday on the eve of Gurpurab.
Guru Nanak Dev was born in 1469 at Nankana Sahib (now in Pakistan’s Punjab province) and founded Sikhism later.
Hundreds of devotees from India left for Pakistan this week to offer prayers at the Nankana Sahib gurdwara.
New Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday greeted the nation on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, the birthday of Guru Nanak which will be celebrated Wednesday.
“The life and teachings of Guru Nanak are of profound significance to mankind. His message of love, harmony and brotherhood, his universal vision and compassion provide inspiration for all humanity,” the president said in a statement.
“May each one of us imbibe his ideals and endeavour to apply his noble teachings in our daily lives,” he added.
Lucknow, Nov 26 (IANS) Owing to the holy Kartik Poornima ritual bathing at Garhmukteshwar on the outskirts of Ghaziabad, the busy National Highway−24 will be out of bounds for all heavy vehicles, police said Monday.
The traffic diversion was put in force Sunday night. All heavy vehicles would be stopped at Hapur.
Orders of the traffic blockade have been issued to Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, Amroha, Saharnpur, Meerut, Sambhal and Bulandshahr police, a senior police official informed IANS.
Thousands are likely to take the holy dip in the Ganga river Nov 28, on the occasion of Kartik Poornima, said to be one of the holiest dates for bathing in the river.
Thousands congregate at Garhmukteshwar to take the ritual bath every year.
Traffic police say the diversions and the blockade were necessary, to ensure smooth flow of people on the highway and to allow small vehicles to reach Garhmukteshwar.
All heavy vehicles from Moradabad heading to Delhi would be routed from Kanth, Dhampur, Nagina and Bijnor, while vehicles from Moradabad to Meerut would be diverted to Atrasi road in Amroha.
Hyderabad, Nov 25 (IANS) Shia Muslims observed “Yaum−e−Ashoora” with the traditional ‘Bibi Ka Alam’ procession and mourning in this historic city Sunday.
Cries of “Ya Hussain” rent the air as blood oozed out from the heads and chests of the bare−chested Shia mourners in the mammoth procession.
It was all black and blood as a mood of mourning pervaded through the old city of Hyderabad, which has about 200,000 Shias, the second largest population of the community in India after Lucknow.
The historic procession was taken out from ‘Bibi Ka Alawa’ at Dabeerpura in the old city with hundreds of people clad in black beating their chests, remembering the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, and his followers in the battle of Karbala 14 centuries ago.
Amidst recitation of ‘marsiye’ (elegies) and ‘nohay’ (poems expressing sorrow), the bare−footed youths using knives, blade−encrusted chains and other sharp−edged weapons inflicted injuries on themselves to show solidarity with the sufferings of Imam Hussain and his family members.
It was on 10th Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar, that Imam Hussain and his followers were martyred in 61 Hijri or 680 CE at Karbala in Iraq.
The procession with the ‘Bibi Ka Alam’ (insignias of the martyrs) kept on an elephant and ‘matam’ (mourning) by dozens of ‘matami’ groups passed through different areas of the old city including the historic Charminar.
Thousands of men, women and children lined up along the streets with many of them standing on balconies and roof−tops to catch a glimpse of the procession.
Hyderabad police chief Anurag Sharma, members of the royal family of Nizam (the rulers of erstwhile Hyderabad State) and leaders of various political parties enroute offered ‘dhatti’ to the ‘alam’.
After covering a distance of about five kilometre, the procession will conclude near Chaderghat after sunset. Police have made elaborate security arrangements in view of the recent communal clashes in the old city.
The ‘Bibi Ka Alam’ is believed to contain a piece of wood plank on which Bibi Fatima Zehra, daughter of Prophet Mohammed, was given the final ablution. The ‘alam’ was installed over 430 years ago during Qutub Shahi period.
The ‘alam’ also contains six diamonds and other jewellery donated by Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last Nizam of Hyderabad. Muharram was also observed in various parts of the Telangana region in the traditional manner.
Sunni Muslims observed the day with many devouts observing fast. In many Muslim neighbourhoods youngsters were seen offering ‘sharbat’ or special juice to passersby.
Muzaffarpur (Bihar), Nov 25 (IANS) A group of upper caste Hindus joined Shia Muslims here Sunday to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, saying it was part of their tradition.
The martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, his family and followers marks the 10th day of the month of Moharram.
These Hindus in Muzaffarpur, about 70 km from Patna, belong to the Bhumihar Brahmin Mahasabha and claim their lineage as the Hussaini Brahmin sect.
“We also mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain like Shia Muslims. It is part of a centuries−old tradition started by our ancestors,” said Mahinder Singh, one of the dozens of Hindus who marched barefoot.
Like their Shia counterparts, they too beat their chests, constantly chanting ‘Hussain, Hussain, Ya Hussain!’
Another Hindu, Shyam Kumar Sharma, who also participated in the Muharram procession, said he was proud to mourn the martyrdom of Hussain, whom he described as “a hero of humanity”.
“It is a historical fact that our ancestors joined Hussain when he was fighting against Yezid at Karbala,” Sharma told IANS.
“We are following an ancestral tradition,” he said.
Singh said according to historical records, Hussaini Brahmins had settled on the banks of the Euphrates river after the battle of Karbala. Later they moved to India.
In the preface to his novel titled Karbala, published in 1924 from Lucknow, Munshi Prem Chand stated that Hindus who died in the Karbala war were believed to be descendants of Ashvathama.
Elsewhere in Bihar too, dozens of Hindu families observed Moharram and took out a ‘tazia’ (replica of Hussain’s shrine) in a procession.