'Eat, Pray, Love' ... minus the pizza and sex
We're heading to Rishikesh in India, which is considered the yoga capital of the world.
January 7th, 2014
12:37 PM ET

'Eat, Pray, Love' ... minus the pizza and sex

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, sits a magical place ripe for exploration. It’s called Rishikesh, and for the next two weeks it will be our spiritual playground.

I am going there thanks to a religion reporting fellowship, and I’d like to take you with me.

A holy spot for Hindus, Rishikesh is also a destination for Westerners hungering for a different and deeper kind of sustenance. Among the most renowned Rishikesh searchers: The Beatles, who came here in 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

It’s dotted with ashrams. Painted holy men roam the streets and sit in nearby caves. There are sunset ceremonies along the sacred Ganges River, and yoga classes flow as consistently as the hallowed waters. Pilgrims flock to temples. Visitors can surrender to ancient forms of medicine, find healing and be cleansed. Some are said to arrive in Rishikesh and never leave, losing themselves forever in the quest for enlightenment.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Hinduism • India • Journeys • Meditation • Yoga

February 11th, 2013
04:51 AM ET

36 killed in stampede at Indian rail station near huge Hindu festival

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

A railroad station crush left 36 people dead Sunday among tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims flocking to the banks of the Ganges River for the world's largest religious gathering, authorities reported.

The stampede occurred on Sunday evening as floods of pilgrims entering the station in Allahabad, the scene of this year's Kumbh Mela festival, broke through temporary barriers and crowded onto already busy platforms, railway authorities said.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Hinduism • India

Diwali: One festival, many customs
Diwali is not only celebrated by Hindus, it is also an occasion for celebration by Jains and Sikhs (pictured). The Sikhs celebrate Diwali to mark the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and also managed to release 52 political prisoners at the same time from Gwalior fort by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1619.
November 6th, 2012
05:21 AM ET

Diwali: One festival, many customs

By Naomi Canton, for CNN

(CNN) - Diwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals in India - but the colorful customs and meanings associated with it can vary dramatically depending on whether you reside in the countryside or the city.

On the streets of densely populated conurbations like Mumbai, Diwali - popularly known as the Festival of Lights - is often a raucous affair, marked by a cacophony of firecrackers on the streets and a flourish of ceremonial gambling in the home. The wealthier urban dwellers splurge on gold, jewelry, clothes and expensive gifts such as electronics, which they buy for themselves and their loved ones.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Hinduism • India • Sikh

Remembering Mother Teresa
September 10th, 2012
10:16 AM ET

My Take: The Mother Teresa you don’t know

Editor's note: David Van Biema, the chief religion writer at Time Magazine for ten years, is author of the illustrated biography "Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint," now being reissued and made available in Spanish as "La Madre Teresa: La Vida y las obras de una santa moderna."

By David Van Biema, Special to CNN

Fifteen years may be less than an instant in celestial time, but here on earth it's a lot of news cycles.

Mother Teresa departed this Earth on September 5, 1997. What more can we say about the woman who became synonymous with love for the "poorest of the poor," picking up a Nobel and tweaking the conscience of millions? What do we know about her now that we didn't know then?

A lot, it turns out.

Here's a quick Blessed Mother Teresa primer, emphasizing the stuff that you probably don’t know, some of which we only learned recently.

1. She was born a rich girl.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • India • Leaders • My Take • Opinion

December 22nd, 2011
11:09 PM ET

India's ruling party woos Muslim voters with quota

By Moni Basu

(CNN) - India approved quotas for minority groups Thursday in a move that was widely seen as the ruling party's attempt to woo Muslim voters in a key state.

The federal cabinet set aside a 4.5% minority quota in jobs and education within an existing 27 percent quota for what are known as Other Backward Classes, traditionally the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system otherwise known as Dalits.

The Indian constitution prohibits privileges based on religion but Thursday's decision would allow economically and socially disadvantaged minorities - Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians - to be included in affirmative action programs.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Asia • Hinduism • India • Muslim • Politics

Islamic phone features 29 Quran translations; points to Mecca
December 7th, 2011
11:24 AM ET

Islamic phone features 29 Quran translations; points to Mecca

By Moni Basu, CNN

Nwe Delhi (CNN) -
What could possibly be more popular than the latest iPhone? An Indian company is hoping that among India's Muslims, it will be the new Quran mobile, a smartphone loaded with Islamic features.

The new ENMAC Quran MQ3500 phone, launched last month in India, comes with Islam's holy book translated in 29 languages and a compass that directs users toward Mecca. Muslims bow in the direction of the holy city for prayers five times a day.

The $76 phone also features an Islamic calendar, downloaded holy books, a calculator for zakat (donation to charity) and an automatic ring silencer that can be set up for prayer times at mosques.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Faith Now • India • Islam • Quran • Technology

Dalai Lama turns 76 in Washington, will meet with congressional leaders
The Dalai Lama in Washington on Wednesday.
July 6th, 2011
09:30 PM ET

Dalai Lama turns 76 in Washington, will meet with congressional leaders

By Ana Sebescen, for CNN

Thousands of well-wishers sang "Happy Birthday" Wednesday to the Dalai Lama, who turned 76 at the beginning of an 11-day visit to the capital on which he will meet with top congressional leaders.

So far, the White House has remained silent on a potential meeting between the Tibetan spiritual leader and President Obama

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has invited the Dalai Lama to the Capitol on Thursday to meet with congressional leaders, his office announced Wednesday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be among those attending.

Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington in February 2010, triggering a rebuke from China, which considers the Dalai Lama the leader of a separatist movement.

"I always say, the best gift to me is to practice compassion," said the Dalai Lama said Wednesday. He urged the crowd to search for happiness within and promote non-violence, compassion and equality around the world.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • China • India • Tibet • Uncategorized

July 5th, 2011
03:13 PM ET

Hoard of treasure uncovered in Indian temple

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) - Jet-setting spiritual gurus. Gilded temples. Sprawling ashrams. Tons of offerings.

India's religious wealth belies the nation's dire poverty.

An inventory under way of a hoard of jewels, gold, diamonds, gems, antique idols stashed for hundreds of years in a centuries-old Hindu shrine in southern India is generating comparisons with the economic costs of the country's mega programs and foreign investment plans running into billions of dollars.

Under orders of India's Supreme Court, officials since last week have been auditing precious royal offerings kept in underground vaults of the famed Sree Padmnabha Swamy temple in the coastal state of Kerala.

Read the full story about the new focus on India's religious wealth
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Hinduism • India • Money & Faith

Dalai Lama gives up political role, remains Tibetan spiritual leader
May 31st, 2011
09:30 AM ET

Dalai Lama gives up political role, remains Tibetan spiritual leader

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) - The Dalai Lama has formally relinquished his political and administrative powers, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader approved amendments to the exiled constitution to enable him to devolve his political responsibilities into the community's elected leadership and judiciary, according to officials.

Lobsang Choedak, a spokesman for the exiled Tibetan government, said the changes were carried out during a three-day session of its parliament in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala, India. The Dalai Lama approved them Sunday.

Read the full story about the Dalai Lama relinquishing his political role
- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Dalai Lama • Faith Now • India • Politics • Tibet

Indian spiritual guru dies at 85
An Indian child looks at portraits of Spirtual Leader Sri Satya Sai Baba at a shop near Prashanthi Nilayam on April 6.
April 25th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

Indian spiritual guru dies at 85

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

New Delhi, India (CNN) - Famed Indian spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba died Sunday of respiratory failure, his doctors said. He was 85.

The orange-robed spiritual leader with a puff of dark hair is considered a living god by his followers in India and overseas.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Faith & Health • Faith Now • India

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.