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The age old Vedic religious culture of India

CULTURE: The one billion population of India religiously stands percentage-wise as Hindus 82.6%, Muslims 11.4%, Christians 2.4%, Sokhs 2%, Buddhists 0.74%, Jains 0.5% and others 0.4%.

In pre Buddhist India the religious activities were based on Vedas centered on four concepts (1) Dharma, (righteousness), (II) Artha (economic and political objectives), (iii) Kama (pleasure) and (iv) Moksha (freedom from the cycle of births, deaths and rebirths).

Dharma and Kama were the designs of life of attaining Moksha. The Dharma is based on Varna (social status). and Ashrawa (the stages of life). Moksha was reached through gyan (knowledge) or through Bhakthi (devotion).

VEDAS: Of the four Vedas the oldest is the Rigveda composed in 1000 B.C. containing 1017. Panegyrics and prayers addressed to natural phenomena such as sun, waters of the sea, the winds, fire and earth.

The Samaveda comprises 9425 stanzas, dealing with the manner of chanting and reciting the stanzas, which gave birth to the music of India. The Yajurveda, is a prose formulae for priests (Brahamins) to perform rituals and sacrifices invocations of gods of absolute authority to provide them with grace to overcome vicissitudes of life both internal and external and even succeed in their pursuits of trade and agriculture.

The Atharveda is composed of 730 hymns (approximately 6000 stanzas) both of prose and verse as a religion on a personal level.

These are hymns to counteract enemies, demons, and disease and to promote success in love, procreation and material prosperity. The Sama Veda contains instructions to perform the rituals of Rigveda in a different manner, and is of no historical importance for a researcher.

The Rigveda demarcates society in to four sections, the jatis (castes) of Kashtriya, (rulers, warriors and noblemen) Brahmanas (priests) Vaishya-settis (traders, bankers and leaders of trade and commerce and art and craft guilds) and the Sudras (servants of the three forgoing castes, the untouchables).

Brahman and Upanishads: The Brahamans contain Vedic rituals composed in and around 8th and 6th centuries B.C. and deal with the use of Vedic hymns, the sequence of rituals and the philosophy.

Stories are narrated, in order to interpret the significance of rituals for success, along with myths and traditions of revealing the meaning of mantras (hymns). The Upanishads composed in 800 B.C. are the most classic texts and form the inner core of Brahmanism.

There are a large number of Upanishads and only 108 are in print. Of these Upanishads, the Ishavasya. Kena, Katha, Prasna, Munda, Mandukya, Taittorya, Aiteraya, Chandayoga, Brihadaranyaka have particularly influenced Indian philosophy. The Upanishads point out that the Brahaman and the Atman are one and the same.

The Supreme manifests Himself in every soul (atma) and the students are told , 'Thou art That' (Tat twan asi) The Bhagavad Gota composed a few centuries later after Upanishads discusses not the unreality of the world, but various duties of the human beings in the world. The indestructability of the soul is stressed and selfless work is enjoined as an ideal and rights of every human being is emphasised.

The scholar Sri Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharya born in 788 A.D., the foremost exponent of Vedanta philosophy, developed the doctrine of Advaita which denies the existence of the world as separate from God. He encouraged scholars to meet frequently and enter into dialogues and discussions on his doctrine.

One of tenets of Vedic philosophy is that every person takes birth with three rains (debts). They are (i) Devas (celestials), (ii) Pitra (parents) and (iii) Samaj. The debts to the celestials should be repaid by the performances of Yajnas (fire sacrifices), which includes conservation of nature, peaceful conduct towards all the other living beings including animals, debts to patents and being employed and raising a family, the debt to society by helping the poor and the needy.

It would be obvious, by and large the Vedic philosophy and literature deem family, society and ecology as integral to human conduct. Thus today in India, the greenery remains green, workers are dutiful and religion is the driving force in all their activities.

Therefore, it is no wonder that India would in a decade from now surpass China and as the emerge the economic giant of Asia. These observations are based on the annual study tours this writer undertakes in the fields of Indian art and culture and especially, on Buddhist monuments in India.

In Hinduism there are two kinds of authoritative religious literature, the Shruthi (hearing) which are eternal, self-existent and divinely revealed and Smriti (recollections), the production of human authorship, thus lesser than Shruthi. The entire Vedic literature is Shruti. All these texts are rendered in Sanskrit (refined language) one of the oldest languages of the world with a written script.

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Indonesian Memorial Hanafi Jummah Mosque Maskeliya



MONUMENT: A monument has been erected where the bodies of the Indonesian Air Crash victims died on December 1974. Indonesian Ambassador Nugroho Setyadie, his family, ex President Maskeliya Indonesian Memorial Hanafi Jummah Mosque J.A. Kudthoos, trustee board members and Jamath members at the monument site performing religious rituals. Picture by J. A. Kudthoos

HISTORY: The Hanafi Jummah Mosque was established in the year 1875 at the old Maskeliya town by the Indian traders from Tanjoor, Valuthoor and Ilyampattai, Tamil Nadu.

In the year 1969, the entire Maskeliya town, the Kintyre Bazaar and several parts of Brownlow Group, Kintyre Estate and Rickarton Estate went under water to give room for the Maskeliya Oya Hydro Power project.

A new Maskeliya town on the lands of Glentill Estate and Maskeliya Estate was established. On the lands allocated for religious purposes, in the new town, churches, a Buddhist temple, and a Hindu Temple were constructed by its respective communities.

The Hanafi Jummah mosque was also constructed by us. This was a small mosque building with a small timber shed for teaching the Quran for children.

These buildings were very much smaller and insufficient when compared to the old Maskeliya town mosque. On December 4, 1974 a tragedy occurred which saddened the hearts of all Muslims not only in Indonesia but also in our nation with sorrow.

The Martin Air D.C. 8 Plane carrying 192 Indonesian Haj Pilgrims, crashed on the seven Virgin Hills at Therberton Estate, Norton Bridge. The total 199 which includes the seven crew members lost their lives.

According to "Hadees" if a person happened to die on his way to the holy trip to Mecca to perform Haj, an Angel will be created by Almighty Allah in such persons name, who will perform Haj every year until the end of the World, in such persons name, which means that the said Angel will be performing Haj on the names of all those Indonesian Suhadas and these Suhadas should be respected.

I came to understand that the Indonesian Government has decided to construct a huge Mosque at the site of the disaster, from the press. In the year 1975 the Indonesian foreign Minister (later Vice President of Indonesia) visited our Mosque with Adlinza Jenie the Ambassador of Indonesia in Sri Lanka and their companions.

I submitted by requesting that we are in need of a Mosque to serve about 150 families living in Maskeliya Town, and suggested to construct the proposed mosque on the land of Hanafi Jummah Mosque where the small mosque was existing to which the Minister requested me to submit my memorandum through the Ambassador, which I was able to do when the Ambassador with his family and the staff of Indonesian Embassy visited our Mosque on December 2, 1976 to participate with us at the Haj Festival prayers.

In my memorandum I suggested to construct The Indonesian Memorial Hanafi Jummah Mosque at Maskeliya and a Monument at the site of the air disaster where the bodies have been buried. The request was approved by the Indonesian Government and the work on the new mosque commenced on March 2, 1979.

The existing mosque was demolished and new foundation columns were raised up to roof level with the 1st and 2nd advance payments made to the contractor thereafter due to delay in payments, the work came to a stand still.

In the year 1979 the 15th century Hijra Celebration was organised by Minister M.H. Mohamed and the Indonesian Ambassador Yahawangsa Sodharmo was invited for the celebration at Nuwara Eliya. Minister M.H, Mohamed helped me to discuss the matter with the Ambassador.

The Ambassador took up the matter and the Indonesian government paid us a final payment through the Embassy. An advance was paid to the contractor and the super structure walls was built up to the roof level after that my successors continued the construction with balance money I handed over and with some money collected from the Jamath and donations given by the Indonesian Embassy staff on their annual visits to perform Hathamul Qran.

The ground floor was completed. As a second stage the upper floor with rooms and modification to ablution section was done by the help of M.H.M. Fazal of FNF (Pvt.) Ltd, and the work on this project completed and the opening ceremony was held on April 13, 2007.

For the opening ceremony Nugroho Setyadie the present Ambassador of Indonesia in Sri Lanka with his family, the Information Officer Argiadipa Subandi and family and A.L. Hafis Mohamed Tahang, Staff Political affairs were present.

The following day, the above, together with the ex President of the Indonesian Memorial Hanafi Jummah Mosque, Maskeliya, J.A. Kudthoos, the Katheebs, the present members of the trustee board and the Jamath members visited the Monument where the bodies of the Indonesian Suhadas have been buried below the Seven Virgin Hills at Theberton Estate Norton Bridge, for 'Ziyara' and recitals.

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Annual gathering of Sri Lankans in Italy at Padua

Italy: The Prato Della Valle in Padua,the biggest and the most beautiful Piazzas in Italy. On Tuesday, May 1, the road leading to the Basilica of St. Anthony, was full of Sri Lankans.They were there to participate in the annual pilgrimage to this world renowned shrine of their favourite Saint.

At noon the great bells of the Basilica pealed and a short while later a very colourful procession headed by two troupes of traditional dancers measuring their steps to the beat of the drums, led a large number of concelebrating priests who preceded the Chief celebrating prelates His Grace Archbishop Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka and His Grace Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

As the procession found its way into the crowded basilica, His Grace Archbishop Antonio Mathiasso, Archbishop of Padua delivered a warm address of welcome to the Sri Lankan Archbishops, priests and faithful who were participating in this annual pilgrimage.

The National Coordinator of the Apostolate for Sri Lankan Migrants in Italy, Rev. Fr. Neville Joe Perera inaugurated the proceedings by inviting their Graces the Archbishops, the Chaplains of the different regions present, Sri Lankan Minister Milroy Fernando and the Rodney Perera, out going Ambassador for Sri Lanka to light the traditional oil lamp.

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Feast of St. Eugene De Mazenod

Founder of Oblates of Mary Immaculate:



St. Eugene De Mazenod

FOUNDER: Feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod the founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Congregation (OMI) falls on May 21. It is the day De Mazenod bade farewell to the world and went for his Heavenly reward. Late Pope Paul VI canonised him on December 3, 1995 as Saint of the Universal church.

Charles Antionine De Mazenod, the father of St. Eugene, belonged to an aristocratic family. He held a high position in the Parliament of Provene.

His mother, Marie Rose Joannis, was from a middle class family. They were a deeply religious family and had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother. On August 1st, 1782, God blessed them with a son, whom they named Charles Joseph Eugene De Mazenod. He was Baptized on August 2nd, 1782.

From his young age, he was devoted to religion and was a bright Student. Unfortunately, the French Revolution made the family to flee to Italy, where they lived in exile for several years. In Venice the young Eugene came across a holy Priest named Don Bartolo who took upon himself to educate and guide him.

He also instilled the first thoughts of a religious calling in the mind of the 12-year old Eugene.

After 11 years of exile, at the age of 20, Eugene returned to Aix. At the age of 26, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris.

After his Ordination in 1811 at the age of 29, Fr. De Mazenod declined the first assignment offered to him, the prestigious position of Vicar General to the Bishop of Amiens; instead he chose to work with the poor, neglected and abandoned people of Aix. Realising that he alone could not meet the needs of Aix's poor, he invited other priests to join him in his work.

Founding of the Religious Congregation

Fr. De Mazenod purchased an abandoned Carmalite Convent for his future Community. They lived a simple life, using a dining room table that consisted of a plank across two barrels and a single candle to light each room. Soon these groups of Priests began preaching Missions throughout France, calling themselves Missionaries of Province.

The success of their work led De Mazenod to form a Religious Congregation. In 1826, De Mazenod received approval from Pope Leo XII to name the Congregation, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In 1837, Fr. De Mazenod became the Bishop of Marseilles. With the work of the Diocese, he guided his young Congregation. During his lifetime he was able to send out Missionaries to Canada, Sri Lanka, England, South Africa and America.

This great founder of the Oblates and lover of our Blessed Mother was called by the Heavenly Father on 21st May, 1861 to accept the reward. He had prepared for him. He breathed his last while his spiritual sons were reciting "Salve Regina".

Eugene was Beatified on October, 19th 1975 by Pope Paul the VI and Canonised on December, 3rd 1995.

The oblates arrived in Sri Lanka on November, 28th 1847 at the invitation of Bishop Bettacchini during the lifetime of Bishop Eugene De Mazenod. They started their apostolate in Jaffna and later spread practically to the whole Island.

They started building Schools, Churches, opening Seminaries, Children's Homes etc. In Sri Lanka there are two Provinces with a total of 255 Oblates.

The Feast falls on May, 21st the date of his death.

Many requests from different Dioceses are pouring into the General Administration requesting for Missionaries.

Let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest and to St. Eugene de Mazenod to send good labourers to the Vineyard.

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Holy prophet Muhammed 'A Mercy unto all creation'

Continued from May 02 2007

MESSENGER OF GOD:

Mahathma Gandhi stated in Young India (1924), "I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life.

It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle".

James A Michener in his article "Islam the Misunderstood Religion. "Readers Digest May 1955..."states:

Western writers have passed their charges of voluptuousness mainly on the question of women. Before Muhammed, however, men were encouraged to take innumerable wives. He limited them to four only, and the Quran is explicit that the husband who are unable to maintain strict equality between two or more wives must confine themselves to one..."

Edmond Burke who admired, the Islamic legal system affirmed "The Mohammedan law which is binding on all from the crowned head to the meanest subject is a law interwoven with a system of the wisest, the most learned and the most enlightened jurisprudence that ever existed in the world."

Professor Ramakrishna Rao in his book - Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam states- "In an age of barbarism, the battlefield itself was humanized and strict instructions were issued not to embezzle, not to cheat, not to break trust, not to mutilate, not to kill a minor child or woman or an old man, mow down date palm nor bum it, not to cut down a fruit tree, not to molest monks and persons engaged in worship.

His own treatment of his bitterest enemies was the noblest examples for his followers. At the conquest of Mecca, he stood at the zenith of his power.

The city which had tortured him and his followers, which had driven him and his people into exile and which had unrelentingly persecuted and boycotted him even when he had taken refuge in a place more than 200 miles away, that city now lay at his feet.

By the laws of war he could have justly avenged all the cruelties inflicted on him and his people, But what treatment did he meet out to them?

Muhammad's heart overflowed with the milk of love and kindness as he declared: 'This day there is no reproof against you and you are all free'..."

Suffice it may to conclude with a quote from the German Poet and writer Wolfgang Goethe "I looked into history for a human paradigm and found it to be Muhammad".

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