Wealthy Indians revive ancient fire ritual

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MUNDUR, INDIA - For dozens of centuries, Hindu priests have performed an elaborate 12-day fire ritual, chanting hymns, making offerings to the sun god and praying for a world free of negative energy.

The tradition faded in modern times, and pious Hindus fear it could die out as young Indians embrace a Western lifestyle and a culture of lavish spending.

But in this rapidly modernizing country, new money is also reviving old traditions. A group of mostly urban professionals has teamed up to help conduct the fire ritual this spring in a village that last witnessed it 35 years ago.

"We want to do our bit to ensure that Indian culture survives," said Neelakantan Pillai, a banker and member of the newly formed Varthathe Trust, which is organizing the event. "In the new, emerging India, people are ready to open their wallets, write checks for such efforts."...

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