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Report on the 1st Asian Vegetarian Union Congress, 2001
from IVU News 2002

Goa, India - 14th to 20th October 2001, Hotel Dona Sylvia, Goa.

The Asian Vegetarian Union came into existence when the 33rd World Vegetarian Congress was held in Chiang Mai in January 1999. At that time the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) and the Vegetarian Union of North America (VUNA) had already been established, however, there was no apex body for the Societies of Asia.

The First President elected was Mr. Jashu Shah of India. He was joined by Dr. Phichai Tovivich of Thailand as the Joint Secretary.

The Mumbai based, The Vegetarian Society - Reverence for Life offered to host the First Asian Vegetarian Congress. After scouting several places like Mumbai, Jaipur, Delhi, Goa, and Ahmedabad etc. it was decided to have the First Asian Vegetarian Congress at Resort Dona Sylvia, Cavelossim Beach, Goa, India. The dates were fixed between 14th and 20th October 2001.

There were a total 180 delegates out of which the majority of them came from Mumbai; others came from USA, UK, Bangladesh, Kenya, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and some came from outside Mumbai.

The opening ceremony of the Congress was led by His Excellency Shri R. Venkatraman, former President of India. The congress started with his blessings.

Reverend Dada Vaswani. stayed in his keynote address that instead of talking about saving animals we must talk about the right of the animals to live. There were about 450 persons present at the opening ceremony of the Congress.

Each morning of the Conrgess there were Yoga and Meditation classes starting at 6.30am.

Sessions started after breakfast on the morning of the 15th October 2001. Following lunch between 3.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. there were workshops on different alternate medicines. Well known doctors, Advocates, Literary persons also came and delivered lectures at the Congress.

The sessions started with the lecture of Sports enthusiastic Dr. Kinjal Suratwala. He declared that the human body is fit to be vegetarian and emphasized the importance of exercise. Mr.Rohit Ganatra, an outstanding Architect and well-known Vastu Shastri a gave lecture on "energy of life". Through his slide show he demonstrated the effect of food on body and mind. Dr. Kothari, from Brussels also talked about food and philosophy.

Next, Bittu Sehgal talked about the Tiger Project which led to discussions on the environment. Mrs. Kunda Ganatra talked about how to take care of eyes. Shantanu Chakravatory talked about magnetic therapy and how it can be used for the benefit of health, while Mr. Bittu Sehgal said that ample water is essential in the life of a healthy society. "If water vanishes the jungle vanishes and if jungle vanishes tiger vanishes, and ultimately human being will vanish." In the afternoon Dr. Shailesh Divecha talked about how to look after your teeth. Following that, Dr. Arun Chande talked on Sujok therapy showing the practical benefits for the human body. Pujya Chitrabhanuji talked about religious principles and vegetarianism.

On 16th October Shri O. P. Tiwari in charge of Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla talked about Yoga and vegetarianism, which was received well by everybody. Shri Narain Bhatia of Chinmaya Mission talked about Rudraksha and its effect on the human body. Sigrid De Leo, Secretary of the European Vegetarian Union who had come especially from Switzerland talked about effect of food on child education. She argued that children who eat vegetarian food have a better temperament than children eating non-vegetarian food. She backed this up by sharing her own experience as a teacher. Dr. Rosemary Turner talked about the history of American vegetarianism. David Pye Treasurer of International Vegetarian Union talked about International Vegetarian Union and gave a review of the 35th World Vegetarian Congress to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland and invited everyone. He gave a very good presentation about Scotland and Edinburgh Vegetarian Congress.

His Excellency the former President of India Shri R. Venkatraman also opened the new Goa Chapter of the Vegetarian Society. Jashu Shah, Secretary of the Vegetarian Society gave information about how vegetarian movement is going round the world. Other speakers were Shri Chitrabhanuji, D.I.G. Karnal Singh of Goa, and celebrity chef, Ms. Tarla Dalal who gave a cooking demonstration with the help of Ms. Sylvia Albuquerque.

On the 17th October Dr. Anil Kadakia spoke on achievement and achievers. Dr. Fernandes talked about Accupressure and Aromatherapy. Kitchen queen Tarla Dalal talked about her own experience and how she changed her husband from non-vegetarian to being a vegetarian. In the afternoon David Boje talked about vegetarian capitalism and Mahinda Paliwanda talked about Buddhism and vegetarianism in Sri Lanka. Shri Navinbhai Shah a Naturopath practicing since 40 years gave five principles of naturopath. He insisted that everybody must laugh for 3 to 5 minutes without any restriction. Such laughter, he said, "will remove the stress from the body."

In the evening Suresh Dalal outstanding poet from Gujarat and Saurabh Shah, Editor of Midday Gujarati talked about Reverence for Life.

Later the "Vegetarian of the year - National" Award was given to Dr. Bhamgara, "Vegetarian of the year - International" was given to Dr. Rosemary Turner. The best vegetarian Restaurant of Mumbai was given to Samrat Restaurant by the President of the Vegetarian Society.

On 18th Swami Tejomayanda head of Chinmaya Mission talked about vegetarianism in most common language and stated that if the people talked about eating animals than why not eat human beings. His lecture had a profound effect on the audience. Ajit Grewal talked about organic farming and Biodynamic and invited everybody to his farm near Alwar. Dr. M. M. Bhamgara, Outstanding Naturopath and crusader of vegetarianism talked about vegetarianism in detail and presented valuable information. President of the Goa Vegetarian Society, Dr. Pande talked about the vegetarian in Medical Science.

On Friday the 19th Dr. Ghanekar of Goa, a cancer specialist and now yoga teacher, talked about yoga and vegetarianism. Dr. Kulin Kothari, renowned eye surgeon from Mumbai talked about eye donation after death and enlightened the people about the growing awareness of the Eye Bank. Ms.Pramodaben talked about vegetarianism and its approach for life. Ms.Pramodaben is a member of the vegetarian society since its inception. In the afternoon a Parsi Priest Dr. Rooyintan Peer talked about vegetarianism in Zoroastrian religion.

The congress concluded with the lecture of Child specialist Dr. Pankaj Parikh who gave dos and don't about children and some valuable tips to parents.

Everyday concluded with a musical entertainment. Mandira Tracy gave a Bharat Natyam (classical Indian dance) recital at the opening ceremony . Other dances included Goa Folk dance, Goan dance and twice Gurudutt Shirde made the people feel at home by singing Gazals and old songs and entertained everybody with his music. Pushpaben Jain also delivered some Bhakti Geet and Linimaben, Pramodaben and Pushpaben recited prayers.

The closing ceremony was headed by His Excellency Mohd Fazal, Governor of Goa, who is also a vegetarian. He delivered a valedictory speech quoting Manu and other old scriptures. President Pujya Chitrabhanuji gave his blessings and the entire congress came to an end.

The Speeches were so effective that Mr. Felix a resident of Goa, heard the speakers and decided not to kill any animal for food. He became a vegetarian on the spot. Mr. Michael who had come to do video coverage of the entire congress on behalf of Astha TV Channel also became a vegetarian and they were honoured. Such was the effect of seven days of profound hearing of the speakers about the Reverence for Life and vegetarianism. "Every life is precious and every life is required to be preserved" was the ultimate message given at the Congress.

Mr. Jashu Shah, President of the Asian Vegetarian Union said that the people came, read the souvenir, and heard all the speakers. These same people will spread the message of Reverence for Life. The Congress was a great success.

Vote of thanks was proposed by Deepak Shah.

Report by Jashu Shah, Secretary - The Vegetarian Society, Reverence for Life; President - Asian Vegetarian Union.

The following report did not appear in the IVU Magazine, but is added for interest:

First Asian Vegetarian Congress in Goa- India

- personal report from Sigrid De Leo

The first Asian vegetarian congress was a great success. There are three main purposes for vegetarian congresses:
A To meet like minded people
B To learn new things
C To spread the vegetarian idea in the country/continent, where the event takes place
All three purposes where met as you may read in the following.

Nearly 200 like minded people from 4 continents ( only Australia was missing) and 8 or 10 countries had followed the invitation of "The Vegetarian Society of Mumbai" to pass a week together in Goa, south west India. Unfortunately a delegation of 40 members from Thailand had cancelled their participation due to fear of war. The war in Afghanistan was also the reason why some speakers had preferred to stay at home. Jashu Shah, long term vegetarian promoter, General Secretary of the Vegetarian Society in Mumbai had together with his organizing staff carried out an event which will be in the memory of all participants as a well organized and interesting meeting. Most of all though the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of the weeklong congress was much appreciated by all participants.

Jashu and his friends had visited a couple of nice places and finally decided for the Goan Dona Sylvia resort, a little village in a beautiful surroundings of palm trees, white beeches and lovely warm weather. I already miss the long walks on the beach accompanied by my friends the friendly stray dogs. Soon we discovered that the owner of the resort, Mr. Victor, was a vegetarian for 16 years, which was a very pleasant thing to know. The programme was well balanced and all aspects of a vegetarian/vegan/ raw food lifestyle were discussed. I was specially impressed by the talks of Bittu Sahga, who dedicates his life to saving the Indian tiger. In a professional way he approaches school children in order to make a change of mentality.

Another very interesting lecture was about the project of bio-dynamic farming which is much felt in India too. Several lectures about reverence for life , yoga, health and nutrition for children completed the great number of informative lectures by competent speakers. The very last lecture was held by a paediatrician, which was a good omen for the time to come as children are our future.

The organizers had taken a lot of trouble to install a rich exhibition on all subjects of vegetarianism. I wasn't too sorry that the exhibition was on the upper part of the congress hall, where only few people found their way to: There was too much emphasis on dairy products for my opinion.

The food was very good and tasty, with a lot of spices as everybody would expect from an Indian kitchen. My regret was that there was only a small choice of raw food in a country where you should think that there must be an ample choice of fruit and vegetables. The staff of the restaurant and kitchen was extremely nice and helpful. You couldn't think of something you wished and the nice young men already served you with it.

The conference alone would not have been enough to make the event known in a huge country like India. Thanks to very prominent guests the First Asian Vegetarian Congress got all the same a very good media coverage. The congress was indeed inaugurated by India's former president, R. Venkataraman who at the high age of 91 had flown 4 hours from Delhi to honour the vegetarian event in Goa. Goa's governor was as well present as several other highly decorated guests from the public, religious or science world. The local newspapers and a TV channel interviewed speakers and participants and reported about the event in a country where 60 % of the population is still vegetarian and where even an Italian restaurant like "Little Italy" inMumbai is completely vegetarian.

On occasion of the Asian Vegetarian Congress a new chapter of the Vegetarian Society was opened in Goa to make sure that the vegetarian Idea will revive in a country where more and more people are taking to meat eating. Following the inauguration of the new Goa chapter an invited guest was impressed by the speeches and decided spontaneously to become a vegetarian. The same can be said of the TV camera man Micheal, who followed the whole sessions and thus was initiated to vegetarianism.

Jashu Shah and his collaborators organized and carried out a wonderful event, and if there is one thing I wished, it is that more young people could have taken part. Of course a weeklong congress is rather costly which not many young people can afford. Maybe the second Asian Vegetarian Congress in one of the other Asian states can make a change. I look forward to meeting all my old and new friends again. Compliments and a big "Thank you" to Jashu and his team.

Sigrid De Leo

Secretary of the European Vegetarian Union
Bluetschwitzerweg 5 9443 Widnau Switzerland