Category: Asia


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Many congratulations to Dr. Nanditha Krishna on receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Literature on March 3, 2016 from Vidyasagar University, at Midnapore, West Bengal.

 

This honor was presented to Dr. Nanditha Krishna (right) by Dr. Ranjan Chakrabarti, Vice Chancellor (left) and by His Excellency Sri. K.N. Tripathi, Chancellor and Governor of West Bengal (center).

 

As well as being the author of over twenty books and hundreds of articles about Indian culture and traditions, Dr. Nanditha Krishna is the President of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, which is active throughout south India, running schools, museums, the C.P.R. Institute of Indological Research, the C.P. Art Centre, and the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre.

 

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The C. P. R. Foundation carries out a vast array of programs and special projects – from the Kindness Kids Project to the restoration of over fifty sacred groves. Some programs further an awareness of Indian art, culture, history, and archeological discoveries. Some provide assistance and encouragement to those who may be less fortunate – people, especially children and women, of many diverse backgrounds and circumstances.

 

The work of the Foundation casts a light on many thousands of years of the life of India, from great classical art and history to folk art and folk traditions. At the heart of all these traditions and the work of the Foundation lies a deep appreciation of the natural world, animals, the earth, and the environment.

 

The C.P.R. Foundation was founded in 1966 to continue the work of one of India’s greatest statesmen, C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar.

 

To visit the website of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, click here.

 

Arunachala

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

No serious person in the modern world really believes that rocks are conscious. There are a few exceptions which we’ll come to in a moment.

 

Watching the TV series, The Universe, being shown on the H2 channel, one can absorb fascinating facts. Underneath the vast atmosphere of Jupiter, for example, lies an ocean – not an ordinary ocean, but an ocean of hydrogen that is brighter than the sun and intensely blue, also hotter than the surface of the sun.

 

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In between the planets of the solar system lie immensely vast spaces, so large as to be incomprehensible – and far vaster distances separate the galaxies from each other. The universe is expanding. Not only is it expanding, but the rate of expansion, counter-intuitively, is speeding up, not slowing down. Our galaxy is zooming at an ever increasing rate of speed away from all other galaxies. Eventually they will be so distant that we will no longer see them. All light will go out, and the universe will come to a cold, dark end. Or so science tells us – unless we accept another theory, that the universe will collapse in on itself to end in a great crunch, and then expand outwards again.

 

In short, “modern science” presents us with what may seem to be a picture of the universe that is cold, dark, lonely, pointless, and doomed (albeit with flashes of the spectacular and dramatic, but doomed nonetheless).

 

Is it possible though that this is not so much a depiction of actual reality, as it is a reflection of the dysfunctional human psyche of the modern world — a condition towards which we have devolved over the past few thousand years? After all, is it impossible that the state of our collective psyche might color our collective perception of external reality? Just a thought.

 

So we are told that, in the midst of this desert of lifelessness called the universe, are tiny islands of awareness, we humans – and today, many scientists accept the concept that there may be alien life forms on other planets, who have evolved other civilizations. We may or may not ever be able to contact them, and if or when we do, we may find them to be either friendly or hostile. Or they may be all around us all the time in other dimensions, who knows?

 

As for the animals that share the earth with us, most humans, whether fond of animals or not, assume that they are a lower life form, and somewhat less important than ourselves. When wildlife biologists talk about the populations of birds increasing or decreasing, an individual bird with her own life and awareness, does not rank very high in the scheme of things as we see it from our human perspective. We do tend to care about species that teeter on the verge of extinction, especially the large charismatic ones, the tigers or the elephants, but the odd orange beetle or the obscure blue butterfly doesn’t really catch our attention.

 

As for plants, people who feel an affection for trees are generally considered quite odd. Though, on the other hand, when tall, old beautiful trees that line city streets are cut down one day by an insensitive city planner, the level of public outcry can be deafening.

 

In December, 2015, Nguyen The Thao, the head of the Hanoi People’s Committee, in Vietnam, was forced to step down following public outrage over his plan to cut down 6,000 famous, ancient trees lining the streets of the capitol. There have been similar incidents of public rage over felling trees in the U.S. and worldwide.

 

In the year 1730, the Bishnois, in India, often called the world’s first environmentalists, sacrificed their lives to protect the beloved trees of their village. The king had sent his soldiers to fell the trees to make way for a temple he was building. One by one, the people of the village stood between the soldiers and the trees, and one by one, they were killed defending their trees. Eventually, at the end of the day, the king arrived. Witnessing the numbers of people lying dead, he relented and ordered his soldiers to stop. By this time 363 brave men and women had heroically given their lives to protect their forest. To this day, the Bishnois, in northern India, are known for protecting trees and animals.

 

Where does this leave us? Well, basically, apart from a few “tree-huggers” and a much larger and growing number of animal activists, the predominant worldview – particularly in academic or scientific circles – is still that humans are important – and anything else may be moderately important in relation only to humans.

 

The planet Mars may be important because after we have destroyed the earth we live on, we may be able to colonize Mars by terra-forming it and making it suitable for us to live on. This seems to be an official view of NASA and a goal of space exploration.

 

On October 9, 2009, NASA bombed the moon by sending two rockets crashing into the moon’s south pole. The intent was for the impact to throw up clouds of debris in which water might be found. In terms of planning a future base on the moon, water would be very useful.

 

To all ancient peoples on the earth the moon is a divine, sacred being and bombing her is a sacrilegious act. NASA scientists and engineers did not seem troubled by this.

 

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The ancient Mesopotamians worshipped Sin as the moon god. The Japanese called him Tsukyyomi. The ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, was a lunar deity. The Mayans revered Awilix as the goddess of the moon, although she was sometimes referred to as male. The Micmacs, a Canadian, Algonquian tribe, say that the dark spots on the moon are spots of clay left there when rabbit had caught the moon in a trap, then was forced to release him when the moon threatened him. Many Asian peoples see a rabbit in the moon, rather than a “man in the moon.” It seems that all neolithic and paleolithic peoples worshipped the moon, the sun, and the planets, seeing them as divine beings. One can find traces of this ancient worship today in living religions.

 

Of course, these days we all know better and do not believe such nonsense – or do we? How exactly has science been able to prove that the moon, the sun, the planets, and the galaxies are inert, unconscious, entirely physical, and totally non-spiritual beings that have absolutely not a grain of consciousness among them? Have you seen any proof of this? You haven’t, and neither have I. This assumption of a lack of consciousness on the part of heavenly beings is just exactly that – an assumption, nothing more.

 

There is simply nothing “scientific” about the assertion that only humans and maybe higher animals have consciousness.

 

All the world’s ancient systems of knowledge maintained the opposite – that indeed the great beings of the night skies are conscious and aware, that they have a real power and an identity, that they are beings, not things.

 

In Tamil Nadu, in southern India, at Thiruvannamalai, there is a mountain named Arunachala. The mountain has been worshipped as sacred for thousands of years and is said to be Lord Shiva. It is not that Lord Shiva lives within the mountain, but instead Lord Shiva is the mountain.

 

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In Australia, a massive, one thousand foot high rock, rising straight up out of the plains in the central part of the country is called Uluru, and is known to the native peoples as a sacred mountain – which has been there since the dreamtime. To them, reality is a dream, and the ancient perceptions of their ancestors represented a higher, truer form of reality. Who is to say that they are wrong?

 

Inyan Kara is the highest peak of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. To the Lakota Sioux and other nearby native peoples, all the Black Hills were sacred and were the home of the thunder gods and the Great Spirit. The destruction of these hills to create the Mount Rushmore carvings is seen by them as the desecration of a holy place.

 

It is difficult, even for modern humans, not to feel awestruck in the majestic presence of towering stone cliffs – or sometimes even in the presence of small little rocks that seem to invoke some special presence, that may seem to “speak.”

 

From where do we gather the impression that these are not great beings, when our instincts tell us that indeed they are sacred beings? Being sacred, are they not also conscious, are they not gods or goddesses? Is not the earth itself a living, sacred being – mother to all of us? There is a voice within us that calls to us to acknowledge and feel a sense of reverence towards these ancient ones – these great rock entities worshipped the world over by our ancestors, these rocks and mountains who perhaps know far more, with a knowledge and perception deeper and more profound, than we small humans could ever imagine or have any grasp of.

 

Photos:

 

Top photo: Sakthiprasanna / Wikimedia Commons/ This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. / Arunachala at Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India.

 

Second photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team / NASA, public domain / Cluster and star-forming region Westerlund 2.

 

Third photo: E. A. Rodrigues / Wikipedia Commons / The Hindu god Chandra riding in his chariot.

 

Fourth photo: Mark Andrews / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Uluru, the Northern Territory, Australia.

 

Sources:

 

To read about the public outcry over the felling of 6,000 trees in Vietnam, click here.

 

To read about the world’s first environmentalists, the Bishnois, click here.

 

To read about NASA’s bombing of the moon, click here.

 

 

 

 

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These are not jallikattu bulls, but bulls rescued by Blue Cross of India.

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

A December 31, 2015 editorial in the newspaper The Hindu, “A Stand Against Reason,” describes the possibility that the cruel sport of “jallikattu,” bull-racing, will be re-introduced in Tamil Nadu, although it was banned last year by the Supreme Court. Here is the gist of the main points in The Hindu editorial:

 

In human sports, the contenders have a choice as to whether or not to participate in a sport where they may incur a risk of injury. Of course, animals have no such choice.

 

This is especially true of jallikattu, in which frightened bulls in pain are forced to run a gauntlet of young men trying to leap onto them, hanging onto their horns. The essential cruelty of this “sport” lies in the fact that bulls, unlike horses, do not naturally run. They are tortured behind the scenes, and the significant pain inflicted on them forces them to run through the crowds.

 

Therefore, it is impossible to hold jallikattu events without inflicting pain and cruelty on the bulls. There is no such thing as “humane jallikattu.

 

Last year, the Supreme Court of India, ruled that jallikattu is illegal because it is a violation of long-standing Indian law against animal cruelty. Proponents of  jallikattu had argued that these cruel events should be allowed because they are a tradition. However, in a country like India, where traditions go back thousands of years, jallikattu is actually quite recent. It goes back only one or two hundred years. Many of the spectators are foreign tourists, and most Indians do not follow a sport that is unkind to bulls. It was judged to be illegal, by the Supreme Court, because it is abusive towards the animals.

 

Since then, the Tamil Nadu government has requested that legislation be passed to re-instate the practice of jallikattu. It is surprising that the Minister of the Environment, Prakash Javadekar, has indicated that he is in favor of this request.

 

Not only is jallikattu extremely inhumane to the bulls, it also resulted in many injuries and deaths every year to the young men who chased the bulls. It would have been preferable if the Tamil Nadu government had taken to heart the intent of the Supreme Court, which was to prevent human injury and loss of life, as well as preventing animal suffering.

 

It goes against good sense and reason to seek to re-instate a sport that the Supreme Court of India banned, following very thorough, extensive testimony, because of its excessive violence and the suffering inflicted on both humans and bulls.

 

To read the original December 31, 2015 editorial in The Hindu, click here.

 

If you wish, you may submit a comment at the end of the article.

 

Photo: Sharon St Joan, 2012. These are not jallikattu bulls; they are bulls rescued from illegal transport by Blue Cross of India. 

 

 

 

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By Rudra Krishna

 

During the recent floods in Chennai, on November 14 at about 6 am, the Blue Cross of India received a call from Mr. Velu, on the Red Hills by-pass road, with the information that a buffalo was being washed away with the heavy current of the breached Ambathur lake, that he was following her, and that we needed to rush out right away.

 

Our volunteers Kiran, Selvam, Kavin, Santosh, Arjun, and Shunmugam had all returned from late-night flood rescues just an hour and a half before the call came in, and were resting at the Blue Cross facility in Guindy. They were woken up and immediately left to attend to the rescue. The scene that met their eyes seemed to be out of a nightmare, for they all saw a massive buffalo (they didn’t know at the time that she was full-term pregnant) who was fighting against the currents to reach dry land. They report that the flowing currents were battering her from all sides, and it was clear that the soil under her feet was being washed away. At one point in time, she could no longer reach down to the ground and was just floating, at which point our clever boys guided her gently, using poles, under a culvert and into a storm water drain.

 

 

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Once she was stuck in the drain, our volunteers worked with ropes and fashioned a harness, and—with the help of some gracious onlookers (who also took the action pictures in the frame)—she was pulled out to safety.

 

A word here though: pulling out an 800-kilogram buffalo is, unsurprisingly, an incredibly difficult task. The ropes had to be placed very judiciously so that she wouldn’t dislocate any limbs. Moreover, it is a pretty risky thing to approach a buffalo. They can be very aggressive at times, especially when in distress. Kiran had to enter the deep storm water drain and fasten the ropes on to her. She wasn’t thrilled about it initially, but he coaxed and cajoled until she allowed him to harness her and secure the heavy ropes properly. The team then pulled her out safely. She was brought back to our Guindy facility, where she delivered her baby, a female calf we named Gina. We are thrilled to report that both mother (who we’ve named Yamini) and little Gina are doing well at our Guindy facility.

 

 

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Our team sustained a few minor injuries during the rescue, but Kiran received rather considerable injuries due to twice being washed off his feet by the currents and getting thrown around a bit. However, we are also glad to report that he is now doing fine.

 

The whole rescue happened during extremely heavy rain, which might not be clear from the pictures.

 

In the recent devastating Chennai floods, Blue Cross has rescued 12,000 animals, either taking them to higher ground or, as needed, providing shelter, food, and vet care. The city is still recovering and Blue Cross flood rescue teams continue this life-saving work every day. – Editor

 

How you can help animals in the floods

 

If you’d like to donate to help Blue Cross of India with their work rescuing animals affected by the floods…
From the U.S. or anywhere outside India, click here.

 

From inside India, click here.

 

Thank you!

 

©  2015, text and photos, Blue Cross of India. May be reposted with credit given.

 

 

 

 

 

© Mcpics:dreamstime_xs_16011660

By Sharon St Joan

To read part one first, click here.

Meanwhile, Gauri Maulekhi, of HSI and PFA, appealed to the Supreme Court of India, which then issued a directive to close the India-Nepal border to any transport of animals into Nepal during the weeks preceding the festival.

Since most of the animals to be sacrificed came from India, closing the border had a momentous effect.

Large numbers of volunteers from Indian animal welfare groups arrived to assist the Border Patrol in spotting people trying to take animals to Nepal. They spoke with farmers and other animal transporters and, if they did not turn back, the volunteers followed up with the Border Patrol to make sure they were sent back.

Dawn Williams and his team from Blue Cross of India played a leading role in tracking down those attempting to smuggle animals into Nepal. A former commando, Dawn Williams rescues animals daily, often risking his life going down dangerous wells to pull out cows, dogs, cats, or other animals. Animal People contributed a generous grant to support this highly successful effort along the Indian/Nepalese border.

Jayasimha Nuggehalli and Alokparna Sengupta of HSI – India and many other volunteers were also there. All these courageous animal people, along with a great many others, on both sides of the border, worked long days and nights in hazardous, primitive conditions.

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The volunteers from the various groups rescued around 2,500 animals and sent them to shelters. Many thousands of animal owners and transporters were turned around, taking their animals back home with them.

Also in the days leading up to the event, in Nepal, Uttam Dahal of Nepal Animal Welfare and Research Centre approached Nepal’s Supreme Court, which issued a directive that all Nepalese laws were to be enforced by the police and adhered to by all local and national authorities and individuals, including the Nepal Animal Health and Livestock Services Act, the Nepal Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act, and the Environment Protection Act. In other words, the Court ruled that barbaric slaughter by machete in unsanitary conditions would not be allowed. This re-enforced the stance of animal activists that the Gadhimai sacrifice was illegal.

Jayasimha Nuggehalli and Alokparna Sengupta in a journal described the difficult and dangerous circumstances of their work along the border. At one point they stopped a transport truck full of buffaloes – this nearly led to their arrest by the Nepalese police who stopped them repeatedly throughout the rest of the day. They wrote sad descriptions of animals being led along to the sacrifice. As they made their way towards the temple, they encountered a horrendous scene of hundreds of thousands of people camped out in open fields and then, in the days following, the mass killings of animals near the temple.

They and the many other volunteers rescued many animals. Sadly, some animals did get through and thousands of animals were slaughtered – however, the total was at least 70% fewer animals than the half a million slaughtered in 2009.

In the end, the festival itself was a failure, so much so that the Chinese company who had contracted to buy the remains of the poor slaughtered animals canceled their contract – there were just not enough animals available. The future was already looking bleak for the next Gadhimai festival in 2019.

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Inside the temple, for several hours, as multitudes of people approached the head priest, Mangal Chaudry, to seek his blessings, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, who had earlier made his acquaintance at Jaipur, had been invited to sit beside him. Dr. Nanditha Krishna has an unmatched gift for communicating about innocent animals – in a way that is both non-judgmental and unflinchingly direct – a clear voice of truth. In numerous situations behind the scenes, without fanfare, her words, whether to government leaders or to rural village women have helped to turn the tide on one animal issue after another. There is no doubt that they had an effect in this case.

Manoj Gautam, President and Founder of AWNN, in Nepal, also spoke at length with the head priest and held a number of meetings with the temple committee.

The conditions around the festival were entirely horrible for all those who traveled there to help the animals – the brutality and hatred, the filth and dirt, the smells, the sights, the sounds, all were a nightmare – from the travel on dangerous, rugged roads to the atmosphere of cruelty and the immense suffering of the animals. All those who went to help are heroes, and many thanks are due also to all those who supported them in India, in Nepal, and around the world.

In the end, the bloodsport that was the Gadhimai sacrifice could not stand up to the combined force of those working on behalf of the animals, and, at last, the temple sacrifice was revealed to all as what it was – a horror, a disaster, and finally also an economic failure.

With the announcement, on July 28, 2015, by Motilal Prasad Gadhimai Temple Trust Secretary and Ram Chandra Shah, Trust Chairman, the Gadhimai animal sacrifice finally came to an end.

Because one could not forget the suffering of so many animals, the ending of the sacrifice was not a joyful victory, but it was a decisive one.

In the words of Dr. Chinny Krishna, Chairman Emeritus of Blue Cross of India, “A tipping point had been reached, with the negative world-wide publicity of the senseless killing, the lower than expected numbers of those killed, and the Supreme Court’s rulings which would have ensured even smaller numbers of animals in 2019.”

An entrenched, blood-thirsty spectacle, which it seemed might never end, had been stopped by the will, the courage, and the dedication of the many who set aside their own wellbeing and comfort, and who never gave up in their fight to save hundreds of thousands, and over the years what would have become millions, of innocent animals.

© Sharon St Joan, 2015

Top photo: © Mcpics / Dreamstime.com

Second photo: © Erinpackardphotography / Dreamstime.com

Third photo: © Aleksandr Noskov  / Dreamstime.com

 

 

© Neverse : dreamstime_xs_48509749

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Nearly 300 years ago, Bhagwan Chowdhary, a Nepalese man who’d been thrown into prison, prayed to the goddess Gadhimai for help, promising to sacrifice animals to her if she would get him out of jail. He was freed and, in return, he sacrificed five animals to the goddess, and he founded the temple dedicated to her. Today, in the twenty-first century, his great-great-great grandson serves as the head priest. Over the years the animal sacrifices grew and grew until the Gadhimai Temple became known as the world’s most ghastly scene of bloodshed.

 

On July 28, 2015, at a New Delhi press conference organized by the Animal Welfare Network Nepal, Humane Society International, and People for Animals, the temple authorities of Gadhimai Temple made the announcement that the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of animals, held every five years, would be permanently canceled. The world’s largest animal sacrifice had finally come to an end.

 

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Although billions of animals are killed worldwide every year, and no words can do justice to their suffering, the five-year sacrifice at Gadhimai was particularly horrifying. It was visible, taking place outside in full view. In 2009, around 500,000 animals were killed out in the open by men with machetes, resulting in a grotesque scene of unimaginable gore and bloodshed.

 

That this sacrifice, which drew hundreds of thousands of devotees, could be canceled had seemed impossible – despite all the determined efforts of animal advocates. This tremendous victory will save millions of animals in the future from a horrible death.

 

 

In a statement at the press conference, Shri Ram Chandra Shah, the Temple Trust Chairman said, “For every life taken, our heart is heavy…the time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.”

 

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With the support of Humane Society International (HSI), Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWWN) had for some time been meeting with the temple committee, to work towards ending the sacrifices. The temple committee thanked these groups for showing them a path forward.

 

Gauri Maulekhi, HSI – India consultant and Trustee, People for Animals, remarked on the need for continuing to educate the public, saying, “HSI -India will now spend the next three and a half years till the next Gadhimai educating devotees in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal on the temple trust’s decision not to sacrifice animals.”

 

The Gadhimai Temple Committee has also decided not to sacrifice any animals during the upcoming harvest festival. Instead, they are placing any animals that arrive into a shelter where they’ll be cared for and turned over to animal groups to be rehomed.

 

 

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In India, which has a long tradition, over thousands of years, of kindness and reverence towards animals, animal sacrifice is illegal. Occasional incidents of animal sacrifice do still occur in rural villages, never performed by Brahman priests, but only by individual farmers or by local village priests. Animal sacrifice is not part of Hinduism and is denounced by all Indian Hindu authorities.

 

However the situation in Nepal is different. Animal sacrifice is widespread. The temple in Nepal that has never practiced animal sacrifice is the Pashupathi Nath Temple founded by the Indian Hindu saint, Adi Sankara, in the seventh century AD. AWWN and many other Nepalese opponents of animal sacrifice have worked for many years to end this gruesome practice.

 

Awareness of the horrors of Gadhimai and fierce opposition from animal groups has grown worldwide in recent years. A great many individuals and organizations played a part in this victory for animals. Swami Agniyesh, a popular social and animal activist, urged his followers to boycott the festival and held a hunger strike at the Gadhimai Temple.

 

Back in 1999, Mr. T. Shantilal Jain, then Treasurer of Blue Cross of India, raised the issue of the Gadhimai sacrifice to the Board Members of Blue Cross, asking what might be done to stop it. Dr. Chinny Krishna and Dr. Nanditha Krishna traveled to Nepal, where a prominent businessman had promised to arrange a meeting with then King Birendra. They waited in Kathmandu for three days, however the meeting did not materialize, and they left.

 

The sacrifices in 2004 and 2009 went ahead. The numbers of animals and people involved only increased – until the numbers of animals sacrificed reached half a million in 2009. They included buffalos, chickens, pigeons, calves, goats, rats, and many others. In recent decades the numbers have exploded, with the majority of the animals coming across the border from India. Many of the animals were brought by small farmers who believed that sacrificing an animal would bring good fortune to their families. Other animals were paid for and transported in trucks.

 

In 2014, as the time for another five-year sacrifice neared, efforts to halt the bloodshed were stepped up. HSI India persuaded the Chief Priest at Gadhimai to attend the FIAPO (Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations) Conference held that year in Jaipur. While he was there many people spoke with him, asking him to cancel the slaughter, including Manoj Gautam, Founder of AWWN, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Chair of HSI India, and Jayasimha Nuggehalli, Managing Director of HSI India. Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, India Government Minister and Founder of People for Animals, offered financial assistance to re-build the Gadhimai Temple if the sacrifice was halted. Mrs. Gandhi also generously paid the fares of animal activists who traveled by train to Nepal.

 

Continued in part two

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2015

 

Top photo: © Neverse / Dreamstime.com

 

Second photo: © Lakhesis / Dreamstime.com

 

Third photo: © Yulia Babkina / Dreamstime.com

 

Fourth photo: © Jdanne / Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

Rukmini_Devi

 

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

This is one of a series of stories about the early days of the animal welfare movement in India.

 

In 1965 Blue Cross of India sponsored the first anti-vivisection seminar ever held in India.

 

Diana Hamilton Andrews, a leading British animal advocate at the time, wrote a report on the seminar, which she had flown to India in order to attend. “Even at 9:30 in the morning,” she wrote, “It was almost unbearably hot, and I was grateful for the fans which whirred in the ceiling.” She describes the women wearing brilliant saris and brightly-colored flowers in their hair – all so very different from the snow-covered London airport she had left the day before.

 

The Chief Minister of Madras, the Hon. Sri M. Bhaktavatsalam inaugurated the seminar, and Srimathi Rukmini Devi, the Chairperson of the Animal Welfare Board of India, presided.

 

 

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Captain V. Sundaram, President of the Blue Cross of India, welcomed the delegates. His Organising Secretary, Sri D. Daivasigamony gave the audience an introduction to the topic of vivisection, which many of them were hearing about for the first time. He explained the cruelty involved and presented strong medical evidence that research on animals is scientifically unsound and does not work, as well as being inherently immoral. He reminded those present of “ahimsa,” the Indian tradition of non-violence.

 

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When the Chief Minister spoke he also referred to Indian history, to the great third-century BC emperor Asoka, who set up the first veterinary hospitals in the world, and to Buddha; he made the case that accepting animal research in India would be entirely inconsistent with Indian ideals and ethics.

 

Rukmini Devi thanked Blue Cross for calling the meeting, talked about her efforts to prevent animal experimentation from taking hold in India, and expressed her hope that the conference would lead to recommendations to prevent all forms of cruelty.

 

Diana Hamilton Andrews spoke then, talking about her experiences in England opposing animal research and some of the pitfalls they had encountered, especially that of compromising more than they ought to have done. She cautioned those in India not to repeat that mistake. She also mentioned the ancient Indian system of ethics, and added that “the East has not yet been drawn to such an extent as Europe and the U.S.A. into the sinister cult of science-worship.”

 

In the afternoon the delegates turned their attention to resolutions to be presented to the government and came up with 23 resolutions.

 

Some of the key points in the resolutions were that all experiments should be subject to government supervision and that there should be “no infliction of any kind of suffering on animals.”

 

“That repetition of experiments shall not be permitted.”

 

That no experiments should be done for financial gain; in other words, they should not be conducted by commercial or pharmaceutical companies.

 

No experiments in schools or universities should be performed on live animals.

 

No animals should be experimented on for the purpose of developing surgical or manual skills.

 

That complete anesthesia should be used for all animals being experimented on.

 

That alternative methods of research to the use of animals should be developed.

 

That experiments should only be permitted on premises able to provide adequate care for the animals.

 

That good records should be kept.

 

That animal welfare groups should be allowed access to any laboratory.

 

That animals should no longeer be exported or imported for the purposes of experimentation, and specifically that the export of monkeys from India should be banned.

 

That debarking of dogs should be banned.

 

That further seminars should be held to promote kindness to animals.

 

After listing the resolutions, Diana Hamilton Andrews concluded her report by stating that she was grateful to have attended the seminar and for the chance to have had a conversation with Rukmini Devi, especially about the topic of exporting the wild monkeys of India to American and British laboratories. She had long been surprised that this practice could happen in a country where the monkey was regarded as a sacred animal, and where more than 80% of the population were Hindu. Rukmini Devi assured her that the Animal Welfare Board of India would continue to press the government for a complete ban on the export of monkeys, which in the preceding year had involved around 50,000 monkeys.

 

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The far-sighted resolutions passed at this first seminar held by Blue Cross of India formed the framework of principles on which those fighting against animal research in India have been working over the 50 years since the seminar took place.

 

Progress has been made – banning the export of monkeys to foreign laboratories, banning the use of live animals for experimentation in schools and universities, and banning animal experimentation for the purpose of producing cosmetics, as well as banning the importation of cosmetics tested on animals. This progress, though it may seem, correctly, that much remains to be accomplished, has diminished the suffering of, and saved the lives of, many hundreds of thousands of animals.

 

The principles remain the same, and the struggle to prevent the suffering of animals in laboratories in India is on-going today.

 

Top photo: Rukmini Devi / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / “This work is in the public domain in the United States…” / Rukmini Devi, classical Indian dancer.

 

Second Photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / Captain V. Sundaram

 

Third and fourth photos: Sharon St Joan / Taken at Blue Cross of India.

 

To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here

 

 

 

 

Lascaux_painting

By Sharon St Joan

 

When watching the stock market, we talk about the bulls and the bears – why? Well, the symbolism behind this isn’t so much really about the bears, but it is about the bulls, who from the very beginning of human consciousness have been known as a symbol of power, success, and victory. The bull stands at the top of the mountain, having conquered his rivals.

 

In the caves of Lascaux, in southern France, 17,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon man painted extraordinarily beautiful cave paintings. The largest of these, running about 17 feet long, depicts, a bull, not a modern bull, but an ancient wild bull, the auroch, a species that existed before bulls became domesticated. They were much larger then and fiercer.

 

Visiting Crete in the late sixties, I was struck by the many depictions in the ruins of Knossos of the bull. Even simple blocks of stone had double bulls’ horns carved at either end. Clearly, the bull was an archetypal symbol for the Minoans, whose civilization was at its zenith, around 1500 BCE.

 

 

In ancient Egypt, the bull was worshipped as the god Apis, symbol of strength and power.

 

Among Native Americans of the plains, where there were no cattle, the bison assumed the place of the bull, and the bison, who provided everything the plains people needed in terms of food, clothing, and shelter, were greatly revered.

 

In Vedic literature and other sacred texts of India, great heroes were referred to as “bulls among men.” Throughout history and today in India, the vehicle of the God Shiva is the bull, Nandi, who guards the entrance of every Shiva temple, and the devotee pays his respects to Nandi, who then graciously allows the devotee to enter the temple and to worship Shiva.

 

In the Christian Bible, the ancient Hebrews got into a lot of trouble by worshipping the Golden Calf, as soon as Moses had been gone too long on the mountain. When their faith in Moses waned, they reverted to an older tradition – worship of the bull.

 

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The Mesopotamians worshipped the bull as Marduk, a magical being – god of water and the growth of vegetation, as well as judge of human affairs.

 

The Canaanite god Moloch was often portrayed as a bull.

 

Unfortunately, the position of great honor bestowed on the bull throughout history has drawn the attention of a darker aspect of human nature, which is the desire to kill whoever or whatever stands at the top. This is not at all the same as the legitimate fight against oppression and injustice, which is noble and heroic, but instead, it is the ignoble wish to subjugate anything that might be seen as a potential rival – the basic drive which seeks to eliminate all competition in any way possible.

 

This instinctive drive has a positive side which may lead to success and to excellence, but all too often, throughout human history, it has instead been overwhelmingly negative — leading to the wanton destruction of all that is perceived as not subservient enough.

 

The desire to destroy one’s rival leads to wars, to run-away arms races, to tyranny, to the accumulation of wealth at the expense of all who are less fortunate, to the oppression of the female, the young and the old, and all who are weaker or poorer. It leads to the destruction of nature, the elimination of wild species, the devastation of the planet earth and to climate change run rampant. At its most extreme, anything that is beautiful, untamed, or magnificent is the enemy of this drive for domination and becomes a target for destruction.

 

All this has lead to the bull being among the most persecuted of animals in many cultures, worldwide.

 

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The bull in ancient Crete was the object of bull-baiting in which young men leaped on the backs of the bull to ride them, thus proclaiming their victory and superiority over the bull – and their worth as “heroes.”

 

Bull-fighting is the modern day form of this in Spain and other countries. In Spain and in Mexico, there are lesser-known “festivals,” sponsored by local Catholic churches, which far exceed bull-fighting in terms of extreme cruelty, torture, and the killing of the bull.

 

There are ritual tribal persecutions of the bull in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

In the history of Christianity, the devil has traditionally been depicted with the horns and the tail of a bull – thus showing the bull, who is an innocent animal, as the essence and symbol of evil.

 

The drive to dominate, subject, torment, and destroy all that is innocent and beautiful represents the very worst aspect of human nature, and it is based on fear, the fear of being defeated and replaced.

 

There is though a positive, iconic figure who is just the opposite of this – the protective hero, seen for example, in the great flood myth of India in the Noah figure, Manu. Manu saves a tiny, helpless fish, who calls out to him for help because he is about to be eaten by large, ferocious fish. Manu cares for his little fish with great attentiveness, for many years, raising him until he becomes a large, strong fish and then releasing him to be free again in the sea. The fish repays him for saving his life by warning him of the Great Flood and then by pulling Manu’s ship through the tempestuous waves to the top of a mountain, to rest in safety. There, all the seeds that Manu has brought along on the boat are planted in the ground, and the life of the earth is restored to begin anew. Manu is the archetype of the positive, protective figure, noble and kind, who cares for the good and the innocent. He is the true hero.

 

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Even India though, which has for many thousands of years worshipped and revered trees, plants, and animals, is not free from the destructive instinct to dominate, especially to dominate the bull, and this is seen in the cruel sport jallikattu, a form of bull-baiting practiced in the south in Tamil Nadu, in which crowds of young men torment and persecute bulls as a spectator sport. It is also evident in the cruelties inherent in the illegal transport and slaughter of cattle – and in bullock-cart racing in the state of Maharashtra.

 

These abusive practices are being opposed by thousands of animal welfare groups in India, part of an energetic struggle that has been pursued over at least the past forty years.

 

The Supreme Court of India is expected soon to deliver a ruling on these three forms of cruelty to bulls, which are already illegal, according to the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act – 1960. If the ruling upholds the rights of the bulls and the integrity of the longstanding humane traditions of India, this will be a major leap forward for animals in India and the world – and a sign that the voices of kindness and positivity are not always silenced and will sometimes prevail, overcoming all obstacles.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2014

 

Sharon St Joan is the author of Glimpses of Kanchi.

 

Top photo: Prof saxx / “This building is indexed in the Base Mérimée, a database of architectural heritage maintained by the French Ministry of Culture, under the reference PA00082696.” / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version…” / Lascaux Caves / Cave paintings of aurochs and deer.

 

Second photo: user:Rmashhadi / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / “This is a featured picture on the Persian language Wikipedia” / Marduk. Iran’s heritage in Musée du Louvre.

 

Third photo: Deror_avi / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version…” / This is a duplicate, at the Minoan Palace, Knossos. The original is at the museum in Heraklion, Crete.

 

Fourth photo: Ramanarayanadatta astri / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / The fish Matsya pulling Manu and the seven rishis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lascaux2

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

In the book Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory, which is a sequel to his book “Forbidden Archaeology” (which I read about ten years ago) Michael Cremo presents the thesis that humans have walked on the earth for millions of years – even hundreds of millions.  As evidence, in the second chapter, he provides a large number accounts taken from nineteenth century newspapers, often with credible witnesses present.

 

This theory about humans being around for millions of years can be a little hard to swallow, and it may be best not to worry for the moment about what is real or not real, true or not true –  just suspend judgment; consider it all a fantasy, if you wish.

 

Here is just one of Michael Cremo’s examples: In California in the nineteenth century, as well as panning for gold in rivers, gold miners often dug in deep mines to extract gold. In Table Mountain, in Tuolumne County, miners digging in deposits dating back to the early Eocene age, around 50 million years ago, found the bones of modern humans embedded in the layers of rock. The Chief Government archaeologist of California, at the time, Dr. J. D. Whitney, documented these in a book published by Harvard University in 1880.

 

There isn’t much point here in giving a list of further examples, because citing a few brief examples won’t make this seem any less incredible, but Michael Cremo does give a great many examples in his book – cases where human remains or artifacts were found inside undisturbed layers of earth.  In one case, for example, a metal ball with artwork inscribed on it, was found inside a piece of coal that was formed millions of years ago.

 

As one reads case after case after case, reported in newspapers, it seems less and less plausible that these could all have been fraudulent.

 

My first reaction to this idea that we humans had been around for millions of years was to think, “How could the earth have survived with humans living on it for millions of years? It is barely surviving now – after just a few thousand years of the intense destruction that we have inflicted on the poor earth.”

 

Some of these accounts tell of modern human footprints embedded in ancient layers – others are about the presence rough stone tools or artwork, in one case a gold string, embedded inside layers that are many millions of years old. Maybe there could be a simple explanation, and we are just missing it.

 

Surely humans simply could not have existed for many millions of years, could they? After all, we all have firmly implanted in our heads that there is a clear line of evolution, and all the evidence supports it – until one begins to ask oneself whether perhaps this clear evolutionary picture only seems clear because all the evidence that contradicts it has been unceremoniously brushed aside and discounted by scientific authorities, who belittle it and absolutely refuse even to consider it. This “scientific” position of “putting one’s head in the sand” like the ostrich has become more and more entrenched as time goes along.

 

One possible thought is that perhaps all the dating systems are terribly wrong and need to be recalibrated.

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On the other hand, many people do have the sense that there were indeed extremely ancient civilizations before this one. Civilizations created by giants, extraterrestrials, or very advanced early humans.  Maybe even previously existing intelligent species that we have absolutely no knowledge of.  What if all the legends and all the mythologies in the world were based on fact?  What if there really were giants, wizards, elves, fairies, goblins, dwarves, bigfoot, leprechauns?  Or all the magical beings spoken of the ancient books of India – yakshas, rakshasas, gandharvas, apsaras, and kinnaras. The seers or rishis of ancient India were also a kind of divine human being.  Every tradition has its own list of magical beings, events, countries, and lands.  The ancient books of India for example are filled with accounts of aerial ships, which take off and land, and are considered a very commonplace way to travel.

 

What if the current, prosaic view of human development is just not the only way to look at things – the idea that apes descended from the trees, learned to walk upright, made stone tools, discovered fire, and developed into us?  Mind you, this doesn’t mean that I would mind being descended from apes – who are in many ways a great deal nicer and much kinder than a lot of us humans.

 

But there is still the sense that in these vast epochs of millions upon millions of years, there may have arisen advanced civilizations, that rose and fell, and that we now know nothing of – and just perhaps, they may not have been possessed by the tendencies to use up and demolish the natural world that our own civilization is plagued with.

 

horseDSC02154 2 Puthupet

 

Does one view have to be true and the other false?  What if there are multiple histories?  What if they are all true?  There might be a purely physical view of time – as a slow evolution from one-celled animals through trilobites, reptiles, dinosaurs, mice, apes, and early humans?  And at the same time there can be other levels of reality – magical, mystical, enchanting – long lost civilizations, intergalactic empires,  worlds of angels or elves?  Why not?

 

Our standard view of logic – which is a rather pedestrian view – requires that either something “is” or it “isn’t”; but that kind of “logic” may not correspond to reality.  Maybe reality is the dreams of God – or the dreams of the Gods?  Even our own dreams have a certain reality – though not absolute reality.  Surely, the dreams of God must have a vastly greater degree of reality than our own. Yet, there can still be one dream one day and another completely different dream another day. Only the ultimate reality – the divine reality – lies beyond the dreams which come and go. That is the only real, eternal reality – and is the essence of all that is.

 

NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)

 

So perhaps there are many histories of the earth and the universe, on many levels. If we did not have to try to fit all of reality into the little narrow physical box that our education provides for us, that would make things so much easier. Look for example at the theories of quantum physics.  There is the entanglement theory, which briefly put, is this: If you take a sub-atomic particle and you pair it with another one — and if one spins in one direction and the other spins in the opposite direction, then if you take them far away from each other, say a few miles – and you reverse the spin of the first one, then the second one, will all by itself, at the same instant in time, reverse its own spin.  This has been actually demonstrated in real scientific experiments.  But how does it happen?  Do the two particles communicate telepathically with each other?  Or is there really no such thing as time and space?

 

This is a real, scientific demonstration, yet it must be filed in our heads as something that cannot possibly be true. It doesn’t fit into the ready-made box that we have inside our heads.

 

Think of all the miracles we have seen in our lives – and most of us have indeed seen miracles, though we may not talk about them – maybe not even to ourselves – but there are events that transcend the “laws” of physics.

 

Perhaps, as has been said before, what we call reality is the play of shadows cast upon the wall – and behind, hidden, there is the real, ultimate reality. The shadows are real too – just as real and solid as we are. But there is no longer any need to insist on just one history of the earth or the universe – there is much room for many levels, dimensions, mystical mountains and rivers, and undiscovered lands on far-away stars.  There is more than we know, and there are times, places, and beings greater, more innocent, and more magnificent than any we might imagine.

 

Seen, in this perspective, there is no need for us to judge what is “true” and what is not, and we can be more open to the wonders that lie before us – or those that arise in the most distant, ancient past.

 

© 2014, Sharon St Joan

 

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / An image of a horse from the Lascaux caves.

 

Second photo: Wikimedia commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.  Watercolor-painting by an unknown artist around 1920.

 

Third photo: Sharon St Joan / Guardian spirits with a horse at Puthupet sacred grove, in Tamil Nadu.

 

Fourth photo: NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University) / A “merging galaxy cluster Abell 520, formed from a violent collision of massive galaxy clusters.”

 

To find Michael Cremo’s book, Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory, on Amazon, click here.