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The Messiah of Terror
Evil's Advocate
Winners and Sinners

 
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In a Corner
Raising the Stakes
Hot Pursuit
Yes, No, Maybe
Estate of Bliss
A World to Win
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Fifth Column: Tavleen Singh
Kautilya: Jairam Ramesh
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The Gandhi Prize 2001 was awarded to John Hume, who
is instrumental in heralding a new era of justice in Ireland.

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India Calling
Food: Currying Flavours
Cinema: Look Who's Laughing
Diplomacy: Line of Control
Business: Corporate Climbers
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Food: Hot Palate

 

 
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As Chennai's crime graph grows, the active presence of gangsters worries the city’s police. A report by India Today's Special Correspondent Arun Ram.
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 CURRENT ISSUE DEC 24, 2001  

NORTH AMERICA SPECIAL: CULTURE

Temple in Bloom

Guided by an American swamy, an idyllic Hawaiian island emerges as an unlikely centre of Hinduism

By Lavina Melwani

   NRI DIARY
OTHER STORIES RELATED TO NRI DIARY

London Diary
India Calling
Race Relations
The world: Show Your Stripes
Business: Overseas Kickstart
Fashion: A Rustle On the Ramp
Living: An Indian Yule
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American Round Up
Weekly Round Up
Education: Top Class
The Arts: For Art's Sake
Culture: Temple in Bloom

Blockbuster films such as South Pacific, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park have been filmed there. Kauai, a small island of sun, sand beaches and indescribable beauty, is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and one of the most uncommercialised travel destinations. Hawaiians call it Pihanakalani, "where Heaven touches the Earth". Could this lush island also become a Hindu pilgrimage spot?

MESSAGE BEARER: (from above) Kadavul Hindu Temple; Subramuniyaswami with Bodhinatha; the quartz crystal lingam

After all, it is home of the Kauai Aadheenam, also known as the Hindu Monastery, with the Kadavul Hindu Temple and the future site of San Marga Iraivan Temple. It is the headquarters of Saiva Siddhanta Church established by a tall, colourful American with a flowing white beard, clad in saffron, who unleashed a Hindu renaissance, teaching American Hindus as well as first generation Indian-Americans about their faith, and helping to build scores of temples outside India.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, 74, who had terminal cancer, died last month after undertaking Prayopavesa, or a self-imposed fast. The author and spiritual leader, born to an American family, lost his parents at the age of 11. He was raised by a family with Indian connections and went to India in search of spirituality. Sage Yogaswami, the leading guru of Sri Lanka, ordained Subramuniyaswami into his lineage in 1948, when he renounced his American name. As successor to Yogaswami, he became a spiritual leader of the Tamils of Sri Lanka and founded the Saiva Siddhanta Church in 1949.

Subramuniyaswami opened the first Hindu temple in America, and in 1960 initiated his first monastic disciples and opened centres in Nevada and California. From his ashram in Hawaii, the Kauai Aadheenam, he set out to bring Saivism to the western world.

Regarded as the hereditary guru of 2.5 million Sri Lankan Hindus, Subramuniyaswami established the Hindu Heritage Endowment to meet the needs of the burgeoning Hindu Diaspora. He also guided the construction of dozens of temples among Hindu communities outside India, from Malaysia to Fiji, including the first Hindu temple in Anchorage, Alaska.

   NRI DIARY
Sharp Rooter
Superfan Nav Bhatia boosts the Raptors at basketball, and the Indian community otherwise

Many Toronto fans know him by sight. Dressed in his turban, jumping animatedly, screaming raucously, waving balloons and towels, this man is impossible to miss, and a permanent fixture at every Raptors game. In Toronto, he is known as the Superfan. His family, though, had christened him Nav Bhatia.

Basketball is an obsession with Bhatia who has never missed any game of the Raptors since its creation in 1995. He spends $80,000 annually on six-season tickets. That, incidentally, is only a fraction of what he expends on the game. Once he gave away 40 tickets to a classroom of underprivileged children. Close friends never schedule an important event at game time-they know he'll not come. For Bhatia, life revolves around the Raptors. "If you ever hear of me getting a divorce, it will be because of all the time I spend with the Raptors. My wife calls me a mental case and says that my first wife is basketball," laughs Bhatia.

DEDICATED SUPPORT: Bhatia with Vince

"I want Sikhs to be recognised in the mainstream."
Nav Bhatia
, superfan

The Superfan status was acquired when Isaiah Thomas gave him a T-shirt with the word printed across it. But Bhatia's favourite remains Vince. He bid $11,200 to attend the Vince Carter Charity All-Star Golf Classic Tournament with four friends even though he does not play golf himself. Sometimes he wears a Raptors headband with a white turban-his identity. There's a story behind the attire. "I was sitting behind Spike Lee for the playoffs in New York. After the game, Vince came over and said, 'Thank you for your support and for coming all this way to New York.' He then gave me his headband," Bhatia shows off.

At Baisakhi, he buys 4,000 tickets and sells them at subsidised rates to the South Asians. Fans are treated to a colourful display of bhangra at half time. "I want our community to be recognised in the mainstream. The realisation that Sikhs are not merely taxi drivers, but come from all walks of life has to be emphasised," says Bhatia.

He also wants South Asian youth to get more involved in sports, preferably basketball. "I want their energy to be focused on positive things and have fun. Once they take interest in the sport, they will integrate into the mainstream. At school, they will connect with children of other cultures by discussing the various points of the game and channelise their energy in sports conversations." This year, Bhatia is sponsoring a Muslim Eid game to show solidarity and support for the community.
By the way, Bhatia has never played basketball himself.

-Renu Mehta

Through his insightful and practical books, including the Siva Trilogy-Dancing with Siva, Living with Siva and Merging with Siva-he brought Hindu rituals, philosophy and techniques within the grasp of non-Hindus and Hindus alike. Contemporary, witty and a problem solver, he was able to bridge cultural and language barriers.

He and his monks presented Hinduism in an accessible manner to mainstream Americans and first generation Indian-Americans through the 23-year-old Hinduism Today, an award-winning international magazine with incisive reporting on Hindu events and controversies. All the monks are computer savvy and also produce a daily Hindu e-news service.

Subramuniyaswami's designated successor, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, has been installed as guru of the ashram and work continues on making Kauai the centre of Hinduism. An ambitious undertaking is the building of the Iraivan Temple on the 51-acre temple-monastery complex on a riverbank near the foot of an extinct volcano. This all-stone hand-carved granite temple is expected to take several years to complete and includes a 700-pound quartz crystal lingam, the largest six-sided, single-pointed crystal ever found. According to Thiru V. Ganapati Sthapati, the India-based architect of the temple, "If all the crystal lingams in India were put together into one, they would still not equal the power of this one crystal."

Temple stones are being handcarved in India by 75 sculptors at a village outside Bangalore, the only such facility in India for sculptors and their families with Internet access and a retirement programme. Devotees in 45 countries have already contributed over $2 million toward the $16 million fundraising goal.

According to The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, the Polynesian natives of this Hawaiian island have some interesting links to India: "Many of the ancient beliefs and practices of these intrepid adventurers bear striking resemblances to Hinduism, such as the belief in one supreme God, Kane, along with other significant deities, and working closely with the spirits of nature. These corollaries and recent linguistic and DNA revelations have led some authorities to speculate that the ancestors of the Hawaiian settlers may have begun their journey in India."

Now, thanks to Subramuniyaswami's Kauai Aadheenam, it may all be coming full circle, as stone by stone the Hindu temple moves from Bangalore to Kauai.

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