Friday, October 28, 2005

Vedic medical astrology growing popular

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 28: Suffering from sexual debility or low sperm count. You need not consult an andrologist. Just wear a diamond of half carat or more on the ring finger of the right hand and your problem will get cured. And if you are a woman, the diamond should be set in white gold or platinum and worn in the ring finger of the left hand.
Welcome to the world of Vedic medical astrology and Vedic treatments. The Vedic medical astrology, which has its base in the ancient Indian religious texts of Vedas, is increasingly becoming popular in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and several other parts of the State. Vedic Astrology differs from western or tropical astrology mainly in that it uses the fixed zodiac. Vedic astrology uses the moving zodiac.
"Vedic medical astrology has cure for every health problem. The only thing is that the medical astrologer should be perfect in his knowledge of ancient scriptures. Every disease and every part of the human body is linked to some heavenly body like planet," says medical astrologer Ch Venkatasubbaiah.
He says venereal diseases and skin problems as also low sperm count are caused by the "bad placement" of Venus in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's Venus at birth. The cure for the problem lies in gemology, a part of medical astrology.
Vedic medical astrology is a branch of Vedic astrology which deals with the medical aspect of astrology. In this system of medicine, practised by saints and sages for thousands of years in ancient India, a Vedic medical astrologer draws a Vedic horoscope based on time, place and date of the birth of the "patient". The system believes that men and women suffer from different types of diseases which are exclusive to them, while a few are common among the two sexes.
"It works on the well-established system of bio-energy," he points out. According to Vedic medical astrology, health problems relating to brain and nervous system and emotional imbalances are a result of the bad placement of the moon in one's birth chart or by an unfavourable transit aspecting one's moon at birth. The cure is quite simple: wear a natural pearl of the size of a pea on the little finger of right hand (men) or left hand (women).
Says school teacher B Srinivas Rao, "my son used to neglect studies and used to spend time in playing. He also lacked concentration. I followed the prescription given by a medical astrologer. I just got my son a green emerald the size of a red bean in gold. He wore it on the little finger of the right hand and the results started showing up". In case of a girl, the green emerald should be worn in the left hand.
Argues Dr TM Rao of Gemini House of Astrology, "medical astrology is a diagnostic tool. A medical astrology chart can act as a road map, describing well the potential troubled areas in life. Various birth stars represents different parts of a human body. One can predict the future diseases in a person by going through the natal (birth) chart". Rao claims that even patients admitted to corporate hospitals have availed of the medical astrology for faster results.
Pointing out that the medical astrology is very effective since it is based on the Vedic knowledge, Rao points out to various astrological signs and the areas of the body they influence upon. They are: Aries (head), Tarus (lower jaw, throat, thyroid gland), Gemini (arms, lungs), Cancer (abdominal cavity, stomach), Leo (heart), Virgo (intestines, gall bladder), Libra (pancreas, spleen), Scorpio (reproductive organs), Sagittarius (hips, kidneys, liver, sciatic nerve and upper legs), Capricorn (skeletal structure, bones and knees), Aquarius (nervous system and lower legs), Pisces (feet,lymph glands, immune system).
Since planets like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto do not have a lordship over a house or a planetary period of their own, they are outside the purview of the Vedic medical astrology. Medical Astrology is a relatively unchartered and extremely specialized field by which a trained person, a doctor can look at the birth chart of a person when he or she is born and able to pin point the potential weakness or diseases or a potential weak organ of the body and forwarn the parents of the child.
According to the practitioners, it is a science and a healing art, which uses the
information, derived from one's astrology chart at birth to ascertain that individual's state of disease and wellness. The natal chart accurately describes
one's personality and one's potential internal conflicts, which can lead to

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hyderabad's contribution for Zakat

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 24: Hyderabadis contribute the largest Zakat fund during Ramzan in the country with the charity totalling to a whopping Rs 100 crore.
About 60 per cent of the Zakat funds come from the one million and odd Hyderabadis residing abroad. Since Zakat is mandatory on well-to-do Muslims at the rate of 2.5 per cent of their total savings minus liabilities, the NRI Hyderabadis pump in the funds into the city during Ramzan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Hyderabadis in the USA, the UK, Dubai and Saudi Arabia give the highest contribution to the fund.
Hundreds of Zakat organisations collect the funds during the month and spend them mostly on distribution of clothes and utensils among the poor. Only a dozen bodies take up activities like payment of scholarships, widow pensions and construction of houses. As much as 95 per cent of the Rs 100 crore Zakat fund goes on unproductive and temporary works defeating the very purpose of the annual charity.
"It is wonderful that people in a single city donate Rs 100 crore in just one month. But in the absence of a centralised body to channelise the funds, the charity goes mostly in the form of alms-giving to the poor and the needy. If the funds are utilised for constructive purposes like setting up of industries, self-employment schemes and on educational institutions, the poverty percentage in the principal minority community could easily be reduced," feels Moulana Abdul Kareem. There is no systematic or organised system of collecting the funds for the common good of the poor in the minority community.
The Zakat fund in the city has been going up at the rate of five per cent every year thanks to increase in the wealth of NRI Hyderabadis. There are certain families in the city which singly contribute about Rs 2 crore each towards the Zakat fund. Hyderabad has 25 lakh Muslims constituting 35 per cent of the city's population. The city has the second largest Muslim concentration in the country after Kolkata but its Zakat contribution is more than that of the latter.
With the city pumping in so much money towards charity it is no wonder then about 5000 people from different parts of the State visit Hyderabad every day to collect Zakat. Some of those who collect Zakat from the city distribute them among the poor in districts, particularly in the backward Telangana.
About 5000 madrasas in Hyderabad and Telangana districts survive for the whole year on the Zakat funds they receive during Ramzan."Centralised system of collection of Zakat is a good idea but it is impracticable in our country," feels Abdur Raheem Qureshi, general secretary of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. Some persons give Zakat among close relatives while others give to charitable organisations. It is quite a difficult task to implement common zakat system.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Puppet show: Mahabharata of a different kind

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
It's a Mahabharata of a different kind. Twenty-five puppets, one man and a dimly lit stage. The Indian epic virtually comes to life as French story-teller Massimo Schuster moves his puppets with emotion-filled dialogues and re-enacts the Mahabharata for full 90 minutes.
For the first time the Indian audience had an opportunity to witness the Mahabharata through the eyes and sensibilities of a foreigner. The narration was so powerful and dialogues so highly interactive that time simply flew away. There was no break in the one and a half hour puppet show.
Massimo Schuster's Theatre de l'Arc-en-Terre and the Alliance Francaise of Hyderabad presented a puppet show in Hyderabad on Mahabharata in association with the Department of Culture. Massimo came to India with his puppets after performing in over 50 countries.
President of the World Puppetry Organisation Massimo is also an actor, storyteller and director. The Mahabharata puppets are statue-like and created by Italian painter Enrico Baj and his son Andrea Baj. Though their faces are Western, the colourful costumes they wear are Indian in outlook. It was a conscious decision not to choose the kathputli look for Mahabharata and opt for an Indo-European appearance. "I can't stand people who have been here for two weeks and claim to know all about the country. I'm not Indian and I don't want to replicate," he says.
As Massimo further points out, "this mixture of West and East symbolises the universality of the characters". Even the music score is international ranging
from Indian Carnatic to Japanese drums and Finnish and Tibetan singing to Persian melodies and Western contemporary compositions. And there's Ustad Bismillah Khan's shehnai soothing the hearts.
Presenting Mahabharata through puppets is not an easy task for the French puppeteer. "It was a great challenge for me to present Mahabharata before the
Indian audience. My goal is not to come to India to tell the Mahabharata to Indians, but rather to show Indian audiences that their magnificent epic has been a source of interest and learning to a Western artiste who strongly believes that mutual knowledge and respect are the only sure means to make our world a better place," he observes.
It took nearly two years for Massimo to do the complete research before coming out with the puppet show. The French artiste drew inspiration from Peter Brook's 10-hour film on Mahabharata. Massimo presented the show in association with Francisco Niccolini, acclaimed dramaturge, author and art director. Massimo has read all the versions of Mahabharata including Kisari Mohan Ganguly’s English rendition to the notes of a French scholar who spent 20 years working on a translation.
And how come a French man took so much interest in an Indian epic? Massimo says he loves epics from around the world and believes that in a multi-cultural world the rich West must acknowledge and recognise the greatness of other cultures. "I am so impressed by the story of Pandavas that I came up with the puppet show to narrate the events in their life to audiences, both in India and in the West. In this kalyug, I think the Mahabharata is the perfect story to narrate, because people from every culture see themselves reflected in it," he observes.
The story begins with Massimo donning the role of Maharshi Vyasa. He performs alone, going back and forth from storytelling to straight acting to puppeteering. The highlight of the play is that Massimo talks directly to the audience to keep their interest alive and share emotions.
He creates platforms of different heights on the stage to symbolise the palace of Hastinapur, the Indraprastha, the forest where the Pandava brothers stayed during their exile and the hall where the evil game of dice was played. As the war draws near, the whole space between the platforms is turned into the battle field of Kurukshetra. He pours life into 25 characters from the epic tale of three generations. As Massimo sits on the stage along with his puppets telling the story of the victory of the good over the evil, the audience are transported back in time to the days of Mahabharata.
The Massimo's group has presented the shows at Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai and Dacca (Bangaladesh). His earlier theatrical adaptations include Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings) from Ethiopia and Shahnama from Persia.
Speaking of his next show, Massimo draws innumerable similarities between the Mahabharata and the Iliad. "Arjuna's travels are similar to those undertaken by Ulysses. The birth of Bhishma is similar to the birth of Achilles," he argues.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rare Vedic Ritual: Ashwamedha Yagam in Hyderabad

October 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 20: Come December 11 and Hyderabad will witness the revival of a rare Vedic ritual that was practised by saints and kings thousands of years ago.
City-based Aananda Aashramam will organise the "Ashwamedha Yagam", a quite popular Vedic ritual in ancient India but gradually lost patronage about 2000 years ago. Being performed for the first time in modern India, Ashwamedha Yagam is aimed at achieving world peace, communal harmony, individual and societal development and general well-being of humanity.
A notable feature of this Yagam is that people of all communities, religions and castes can participate in it offering prayers to the Almighty and invoking His Blessings for all.
"It is once in a life time opportunity. Ashwamedha Yagam is of two types - Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam and Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam. Kings who performed Srouta Ashwamedha Yagam used to sacrifice a horse at the end of it. The Snarta Ashwamedha Yagam was performed by saints and divine personalities without involving animal sacrifice. We are going to observe the Snarta variety in Hyderabad, reviving the tradition that had become extinct long ago," says organiser (Yaga Kartha) Dr PV Sesha Sai.
It is the most solemn and impressive cultic celebration of the Vedas and at the same time it is one of the most secular and political. The priestly role is not here so prominent as in most of the other sacrifices.
The sankalpa for this Yaga took place in the month of Maha Maghi (February) this year and after lot of exercises, we have selected the bright day of Margasira maas coupled with Sunday and Revati Star, which falls on December 11. Initially, we planned for 11 days but it is now reduced to eight days.
Jagadguru Sri Ganeshanada Bharathi Mahaswami will bless the Yagam which is performed as per Vedic traditions. It is a satvik yaga with an objective of Viswa Kalyan and Viswa Shanti. Soorya Yagam, Sri Yagam, Rudra Yagam and Sudharshana Yagam will also be performed as part of the main Ashwamedha Yagam. There will also be Pasupatha Prakriya and Brahmastra all under one roof.
Participant individuals may participate in Sri Sowra Yagam (for political prosperity), Sri Varuna Yagam (timely rains), Sri Runa Vimoc-hana Pasupatam (clearance of debts), Sri Kanya Pasupatam (for marriage), Sri Kubera Pasupatam (business development), Sri Mrutyunjaya Homam (long life), Sri Navagraha Pasupatam (relief from bad incidents). It is the first time that so many sub-yagams are performed along with Ashwamedha Yagam in the country.
Dr Sesha Sai points out that there is a clear distinction between the Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) as an outward rite and that as an inward yagam. The external rite is declared to be the ‘king of the rites' by Shatapatha Brahmana and the rite was performed by kings. Even though the rite itself is performed over a period of three days, it needed preparation for a year or two.
Ashva the steed is the standard symbol for life-energy or life-power prana both inside the human and in the cosmos and Medha means both `offering' and ‘intelligence'. Ashvamedha for saints means offering of the life-power with all its impulses, desires, enjoyments, frustrations and also its material counterpart. And for kings it is a royal sacrifice offered by a victorious rulers, he explains.
The programme will also include two Avadhanas, honoring of 108 couples, 108 students, 108 housewives and 108 small girls and recitation of Shri Vishnu Parayana for 1000 times, 100,00,000 Kunkumaarchana; Rudrabhishek using 100000 rudraakshaas and 108 Havan Kunds, besides a Sarva Dharma Sammelan to send a signal of oneness of the humankind.
About 100 acres of land is selected for the Yagam and 300 Vedic scholars will participate in it. There will be horses, camels, elephants and cows for worship. Kuchipudi, Bharata natyam, vocal, carnatic, hindustani and mrigandam artistes will give live performance during the programme.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

University of Hyderabad in a thick of controversy

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 31: The prestigious University of Hyderabad is once again in the thick of controversy. This time over the decision to allot 200 acres of its prime land to Care Foundation, a private institution which wants to build a superspeciality hospital and research centre on the campus.
The university has reportedly entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Care Foundation without the mandatory approval of the academic council or the executive council. University sources said vice-chancellor Seyed E Hasnain had kept both the councils in the dark over the proposal to allot the land to the Care Foundation.
He simply informed the executive council about the plan without naming the organisation (Care Foundation) to which the land would be given. The VC's decision to hand over 200 acres of land worth around Rs 1000 crore to a private body has raised many an eyebrow. "Does a research foundation require 200 acres of land? Will it not do with a couple of acres," is the general refrain in the university circles.
Moreover, neither the vice-chancellor nor the university has any right whatsoever to alienate the campus land without the prior approval of the State government. The land given to the University of Hyderabad is an "assigned land" which means the university can just enjoy the rights without selling it or leasing it out to a third party. The State government while making the land allocation on February 21, 1975 made it clear that the "allocation was conditional". If the university goes ahead with its proposal, it will be flouting the State government rules and the University Notification.
The University has already lost 700 acres of its total 2300 acres land to various institutions in the past five years. The previous Telugu Desam government alienated 400 acres of HCU land to controversial sports firm IMG Bharata and 34 acres to Reddy Labs. Recently, 13 acres of land was given to a games village for the World Military Games scheduled for next year. The IIIT also took away a major portion of the university land.
But unlike the present Care Foundation deal, the State government whenever it took away university land it did so through a memorandum of understanding i.e. allocation of alternative land to the university. The State government while making allocation of the land to the university had also specified that the campus should be used for education and technology only. If the university wants to alienate the land it should obtain prior permission from the State government. In the Care Foundation case, no such permission has been obtained.
"The vice-chancellor has taken a unilateral decision. He did not get the approval of the EC or the AC. What is the need to keep the information about this deal secret. Proper procedures were not followed. A centre for higher learning like this, in the name of advancement of its academic stature, can not give away land indiscriminately to other agencies which seek to make profit out of the precious University land," argues senior CPM leader DG Narasimha Rao, who has been fighting for the protection of HCU lands.
Land prices in the HCU area have skyrocketed in the recent past and an acre of land there now costs Rs 5 crore. This means the university authority had agreed to give away Rs 1000 crore worth land to a private foundation.
"If there is nothing wrong in the deal, why then it is being kept in secrecy? Why the authorities did not discuss the issue with the academic, non-academic or the student community. Why the State government was not taken into confidence? We demand that all the relevant documents and papers should be made public," observed S Sudharshan Rao, president of HCU Non-teaching Employees' Association.
Many in the academic circles wonder what has forced the vice-chancellor to propose 200 acres of prime land to Care Foundation, when the Central or the State governments are now making do with just a few acres of land for research institutions.
Only recently Hasnain told reporters that the university would have buildings staggered all around the campus to prevent land acquisitions by government. "Our new institutions will be spawned on the university land to enable us to keep our land with us," he had pointed out.