Archive for the ‘Religion’ category

DNA tests reveal interesting news on caste system

August 30th, 2013
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To quote the important statements:

Their finding, recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, made waves when it was revealed that genetic mixing ended 1,900 years ago, around the same time the caste system was being codified in religious texts. The Manusmriti, which forbade intermarriage between castes, was written in the same period, give or take a century.

Thangaraj says the study shows only a correlation between the early caste system and the divergence of bloodlines, and whether one caused the other is a debate better left to historians. Nonetheless, it puts a stake in the ground, marking the moment when the belief that one should marry within one’s own group developed into an active practice.

He also doesn’t want the early signs of a caste system to overshadow another finding of his study — how completely the population mixed 2,000 years ago. He points to the Paliyar tribe in the foothills of southern India. Their villages are inaccessible by car, and outsiders cannot visit them without a government permit. “They’re still in the forest,” says Thangaraj, “but still they have some affinities with other groups. At some point in time, everybody was mixed.”

Regardless of the manusmriti, its interesting to note that genetic mixing was prevalent till 1,900 years ago in India, and it originates from two main bloodline groups: Africa and Eurasia. As mentioned, nearly every Indian can be traced to genetic mix of these two groups. Full article below.

 

India caste

Dr. Kumarasamy ThangarajKumarasamy Thangaraj takes a blood sample from an Andaman islander, as part of his research into the genetics of India’s castes

Kumarasamy Thangaraj traveled 840 miles (1,350 km) off of the eastern coast of India by plane, then ship, then six hours by car, then ship again to collect blood samples from an isolated tribe of hunter-gatherers on the Andaman Islands. Their blood, he explained through an interpreter, would help him understand a pivotal moment in India’s genetic history. The tribesmen had never heard of a gene before or an academic study for that matter, and the whole pitch struck them as an interesting diversion from their usual routine of spearfishing.

“They mostly laughed,” Thangaraj says, before they offered up their arms in exchange for food. A few needle pricks later, they returned to their boats to fling short wooden spears into the water with uncanny aim, while Thangaraj made the long journey home to Hyderabad. He deposited the latest samples into a blood bank, alongside another 32,000 samples from his countrymen.

The collective bloodlines at the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, India’s leading genetic-research institute, pose a unique riddle for researchers. On the one hand, geneticists can trace nearly all bloodlines back to two ancestral groups, one hailing from Africa, the other from Eurasia. These groups mingled, married and swapped genes. A mixture of their genetic material can be found in nearly every person on the subcontinent today.

But at some mysterious point in history, these braided bloodlines began to fray. The population divided along linguistic, religious and tribal lines, to the point where it separated into 4,635 distinct genetic groups. Europe and Asia look positively homogeneous in comparison, says Thangaraj. He and his collaborators at Harvard Medical School wanted to know when exactly the Indian melting pot stopped melting.

Their finding, recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, made waves when it was revealed that genetic mixing ended 1,900 years ago, around the same time the caste system was being codified in religious texts. The Manusmriti, which forbade intermarriage between castes, was written in the same period, give or take a century.

Thangaraj says the study shows only a correlation between the early caste system and the divergence of bloodlines, and whether one caused the other is a debate better left to historians. Nonetheless, it puts a stake in the ground, marking the moment when the belief that one should marry within one’s own group developed into an active practice.

He also doesn’t want the early signs of a caste system to overshadow another finding of his study — how completely the population mixed 2,000 years ago. He points to the Paliyar tribe in the foothills of southern India. Their villages are inaccessible by car, and outsiders cannot visit them without a government permit. “They’re still in the forest,” says Thangaraj, “but still they have some affinities with other groups. At some point in time, everybody was mixed.”

It’s a point that he stresses to anyone who wants to turn bloodlines into battle lines. On Aug. 15, on India’s independence day, a mob from the Rajput community in Biharattacked men, women and children in the Dalit community. They beat them with rods, killing one and injuring 54. “Look, we were all brothers and sisters 2,000 years back,” Thangaraj says of this sort of violence, “why are you fighting now?” Although he did observe one notable outlier from the extended family: the spear-wielding fishermen of the Andaman Islands have no trace of the genetic mix that pervades the mainland. Proof that the only the thing that really could have stopped India’s ancestral populations from mixing was an 840-mile schlep to a remote tropical island.

Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/08/27/what-dna-testing-reveals-about-indias-caste-system/#ixzz2dQiYOQ2x

Thaipusam holiday in Kedah soon?

July 15th, 2013
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I know, got plenty of serious things to blog about….am still compiling materials. In the mean time, what PR govt failed to do in last 5 years may come back to haunt it. Newly elected BN govt is saying that wheels are set in motion to make Thaipusam a public holiday in Kedah. Not sure if its possible by 2014 (still got 7 months++). If it succeeds, then it will look bad on PR especially the PKR reps who were even EXCO in the state. If the promised Tamil schools are completed by next election and no other controversies, then can say the Indian votes in Kedah are secured for BN for GE14.

Let’s see how this progresses…(and back to more serious stuff like conversion and IPTA intakes — coming up soon)

 

 Kedah is likely to get a public holiday for the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, in keeping with an election promise of the Barisan Nasional.

The application for a Thaipusam public holiday is to be discussed at the weekly meeting of the state executive council on Wednesday, said State Religion, Indian and Siamese Community Affairs, Human Resources and Tourism Committee chairman Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid.

“I hope the outcome of the meeting will bring good news to Hindus in Kedah because the time has come for Thaipusam to be a state public holiday as Kedah has almost 20,000 Hindus,” he said after a visit to the site of the Sri Ramakrishna Organisation building in Alor Semadon, here, Sunday.

The Sri Ramakrishna Organisation was established to conduct free motivation, religious, computer and music classes for youngsters. The organisation has applied for RM40,000 from the state government to conduct these classes.

Meanwhile, Kedah MIC treasurer R. Muniandy said the application for a Thaipusam public holiday was submitted a long time ago.

In 2008, the Pakatan Rakyat promised to consider the matter if it won the election but the promise remained just that after the pact came to power in the state.

“We are thankful to the BN for having taken the initiative to grant the Thaipusam public holiday much-awaited by Hindus in Kedah,” he said. – Bernama

source: http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2013/07/14/Kedah-to-get-Thaipusam-holiday.aspx

Tamil schools not allowed to take holiday for Ponggal???

January 9th, 2013
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Another ridiculous move by the MOE if the news below is true. Previously, Tamil schools can take special holiday for Ponggal which falls in mid January.  And surely no one in the right mind will put a day before Thaipusam as replacement class! What in the world are these guys having for food? Is this only in Kedah or nationwide directive?

THE Indian community is unhappy over the Education Ministry’s decision not to allow Tamil schools to take a day off as a special holiday for the Ponggal festival which falls on Jan 14, reported Tamil Nesan.

It quoted Sungai Petani MIC division deputy chairman T.H. Subra as saying that education officers did not understand the significance of the festival.

He was also unhappy that Jan 26 had been marked as a school day to replace additional holidays given for the Chinese New Year celebration.

“This is unsuitable as most Hindu children will be busy preparing for Thaipusam, which falls on Jan 27,” he said, adding that until last year, Tamil schools were given the flexibility to take three days off a year for religious festivals.

He urged education officers to be fair to all communities.

source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/1/9/nation/12549401&sec=nation

2013 Deepavali Date Confusion: 2 or 3 November?

January 8th, 2013
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There seems to be a confusion over Deepavali 2013 date. Do a search in Google and nearly every result show Deepavali is on 3rd November 2013 (Sunday), including our next door neighbor Singapore  (http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/employment-rights-conditions/leave-and-holiday/Pages/PublicHolidays2013.aspx).

Refer Wiki as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali

However the calendar released by Bahagian Kabinet of Prime Minister’s Department lists 2 November as Deepavali (link here: http://www.kabinet.gov.my/images/stories/kelepasanam/2013_merged.pdf)

2013 Public Holidays Malaysia

[click to see larger view]

I’ve just sent feedback to Bahagian Kabinet to ask them to check since Deepavali supposed to be on 3rd. Hope to get reply from them. As far as I know, the festival date is consulted with KL Mariamman Temple Devasthanam, so wonder how they ended up with different date than rest of the world

Deepavali being a religious festival, is calculated based on astronomy. If you check the Hindu panchangam, it falls on ammavasai (no moon day), which is on 3rd of November this year.

Hope things can be clarified immediately as this involves religious festival and public holiday, where people will make plans for celebration and travel. Especially when Deepavali falls on Sunday because Monday becomes public holiday! 🙂

Restrictions for Christians to visit Holy Land removed

December 19th, 2012
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I didn’t know that Malaysian Christians were subject to such stringent requirements in order to visit their holy land until the issue was highlighted early this year or so. Sounds like unfair or even religious discrimination to me.

Previously the rules were quite tight such as government imposed a quota of 700 pilgrims per year, with any one church only allowed to send one group of 40. Visits were also limited to 10 days and pilgrims were only allowed one visit every three years.

But this changed last month as government had cancelled most of the requirements (visit limit extended to 21 days from 10).

Maybe its part of the “transformasi”. Maybe its due to election nearing. Maybe to show government is sensitive. Maybe due to security concerns. Maybe due to boycott of Israel. Maybe “whatever you want to think of it”.

 

The Najib administration has rescinded its quotas, age floor and other travel limits imposed last year on Christian Malaysians wishing to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, say church leaders and a tour agent.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s move, ahead of Christmas and national polls, is seen as a bid to win back dwindling support from the minority community that barely make up 10 per cent of the country’s 28 million-strong population but is regarded as a swing vote group in urban areas and crucial to the battle to reclaim the middle ground.

“Yes! Granted us all the concessions we asked for,” Rev Hermen Shastri told The Malaysian Insider in a text message yesterday.

Shastri, the secretary-general Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), had previously criticised Putrajaya for “always shifting the goal posts” during meetings between government officials and Christian leaders, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in July this year.

Christian Malaysians had voiced their unhappiness with Putrajaya after churches were allowed to send only up to 20 pilgrims to Jerusalem a year besides limiting their stay there to a week, among several constraints, acts they saw as further erosion of their religious freedom guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.

While Malaysia bans travel to Israel, the government had previously shut an eye to Christian pilgrims journeying to the historic city regarded as holy to three of the world’s main religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

An official with the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) confirmed the umbrella body — which represents 90 per cent of the country’s nearly 2.8 million Christians — had last month received a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office informing that the government had relaxed the rules to allow Christian Malaysians to enter Israel.

“Taking into account the needs of Christian Malaysians, the Home Ministry has amended the religious pilgrimage rules to Israel as follows,” wrote Wong Nai Chee, political secretary to the prime minister in the letter dated November 28 sighted by The Malaysian Insider.

In its list, the government removed the quota on the number of Christian pilgrims per year; the number of pilgrims per church group; where Christian pilgrims can go in Israel; and the frequency of their pilgrimages; as well as extended the stay in Israel to 21 days from seven previously; and cancelled the 18-year-old minimum age requirement.

The new guidelines were effective from October 30, Wong stated in the letter.

According to the CFM official who declined to be named, it was the first time the government had issued any travel guidelines to Christian Malaysian pilgrims, a point backed by a local tour agent who has been organising travel arrangements to Jerusalem on behalf of churches for the last 15 years.

“Previously, the only black-and-white we received were when they rejected our applications,” said Inbam Solomon of World Discovery Travel.

She told The Malaysian Insider that prior to 2010, Christians in this Muslim-majority country have been freely performing pilgrimages to the holy city despite Malaysia having no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Then in January 2010, the government banned pilgrimages to the region, ostensibly due to heightened security risks posed by the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

When Putrajaya finally lifted the ban in April 2011, it tightened travel rules for Christian Malaysian pilgrims, Solomon related.

Her agency, which had helped organise pilgrimage tours for an average 2,000 Christian Malaysians before the 2010 clamp, saw the numbers severely cut by nearly 90 per cent.

Churches were also required to deal directly with the Home Ministry for permission to travel to Jerusalem, a role that had been performed previously by travel agencies, she said.

Christians were also subjected to additional scrutiny from the Home Ministry, including the police, and were required to submit their baptism certificates or endorsement letters from their respective churches to prove they were genuine followers of the faith, Solomon added.

Word of the government’s new travel guidelines have already spread among Christians, who told The Malaysian Insider they were heartened by the government’s decision.

“We are grateful we can once again go to worship in the Holy Land,” Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew said when contacted.

Andrew, who edits the country’s sole Catholic paper, had run a short news report on the new guidelines in last Sunday’s edition of Herald.

source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/putrajaya-lifts-curbs-on-christian-pilgrims-to-israel/