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Hinduism throbbing high in South East Asia (Part III of III)

Hinduism throbbing high in South East Asia (Part III of III)

Author: Ratnadeep Banerji
Publication: Organiser
Date: September 7, 2008
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=253&page=17

Garuda insignia of Indonesia

"Even during our short stay, what was more than evident was how deeply the mind of the people of this country has been influenced by the stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. We have read in our Geography books how, when fauna and flora migrate to a favourable soil, they multiply and spread more luxuriantly than in their original habitat. In the same way people's minds here have been overlaid by the epic stories. …..And so even today, the people, through their bodies, are giving dance form to the lives of these epic characters, thrilled by the throb of life-blood coursing through the stories that are the never-ending subject of their plays. Although outwardly they appear to have been cut off from India for centuries, they have acquired a subtle refuge within India's soul through the epics. These islands are called the Dutch Indies; but in point of fact they are the Vyasa Indies…………"

(Rabindranath Tagore's Travelogue: Excerpts from August-September, 1927 letters from Java)

Sanskrit names are still freely used ere. Irrigation water is called Sindhu-amrita (nectar of the sea)…..High-sounding Sanskrit names that are unknown even in our country are not uncommon here, as, for instance, Atma-suvijna (who thoroughly knows himself), Virya-suvrata (who has taken a vow of good courage, Yaso-vidagha (on fire with the effulgence of fame) and a host of others.

(Source: R Tagore, an anthology edited by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, Picador ISBN 0 330 34963 5)

In another of Tagore's letters written to Amiya Chakraborty while on Java trip on September 17, 1927, he says-"The balcony of the palace of the king titled as 'Monkunagro', where I am sitting now to write this letter, abounds with Ramayana stories beautifully drawn on silk to be seen all around on the foundation pillars. But, they are Muslims by religion. Yet, they know ins and outs of the Hindu deities. They have taken as their own all the ancient streams of the India narratives.. In fact, there is nothing wrong in it, as the characters of Ramayana and Mahabharata in abstraction are roaming around in their land. Rather, they do not have such all pervasive camaraderie in our country, where they do not figure in all their festivals as at every home here."

The Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, ercted in 1956 is widely revered and happens to be a tourist attraction. It has a statue of Phra Phrom, counterpart of Brahma. Devout worshippers throng the shrine. It so happened that on March 21, 2006, a mentally disbalanced person vandalised the statue that shot an outrage among the bystanders who subsequently lynched him.

The resurgence of Hinduism in Indonesia is led by Balinese Hindus.

Garuda marks the national symbol of Indonesia and also to the airline Garuda Indonesia. The Indonesian coat of arms, Garuda Pancasila, derives its insignia from Javanese Hindu elements.

The Indonesian government has officially sanctioned five monotheistic religions-Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Inspired by Hindu Javanese legacy, several hundred thousand Javanese converted to Hinduism in the 1960s and 1970s. Some ethnic religions though not Hindu were officially recognised under Hindu variants by Ministry of Religion in 1968 and 1980. Various tribal and animistic religions declared themselves Hindu to avoid harassment or pressure to convert to Islam or Christianity. Indonesian nationalists have all along praised the achievements of the Hindu Majapahit Empire. This factor has led to an increased popularity and witnessed a resurgence of Hinduism in Indonesia outside its Balinese stronghold. The rate of conversion accelerated dramatically after the collapse of the former President Suharto's authoritarian regime in 1998. The eastern part of Java has witnessed a major resurgence of Hinduism with mass conversions. In this region a prominent Hindu temple on the slope of Mt Sumeru, Java's highest mountain has come up. Hindu communities are also proliferating around the Hindu monuments of Prambanan.

Malaysia has witnessed widespread persecution by high-handedness of the Government. Several imposing temples were razed down on trivial reasons.

What is Hindutva? Is it redundant or still remains redolent? Shri Bharat Gupta, a master raconteur during a discourse at India International Centre embarked on a myth shattering spree to unravel certain facets of Hinduism that remain obscure to people at large.

In 1966 the Raja Guru (Thai Royal Guru) and the top Indian Brahmin appointed Pandit Vidyadharji to be the Chief Hindu Priest of Thailand, a title he holds up to the present time. Sacred waters from nine sacred rivers in India was used by Hindu Brahmins in a ceremony to mark His Majesty the King's 72nd birthday.

And quite so, by being redolent one can perceive that Hindutva can never become redundant. "The complexity of Hinduism is mainly due to the number of attempts at explaining in different ways the universal laws and the nature of the all pervading principles from which the universe may have arisen." It has been the sole motive of the Vedas and the Upanishads to decipher the ultimate nature of reality viz. the atman-brahman concordance. Hinduism is not quartered into any precincts of dogmas. Hinduism is a realisation based faith, where the individual's knowledge of the Divine is the final aim. The Unity of the Divine can be brought about through amorphic means of samadhi or through morphic means of icons, images, symbols, gods or goddesses.


(The author can be contacted at ratnaub@gmail.com)

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