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Indian Diaspora in Holland

The many flavours of Hinduism in Holland

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

By Shubhi Mangla

The Netherlands is divided into twelve coastal provinces. Two of its provinces namely North and South Holland together make Holland. The country Netherlands as a whole is still called Holland by some people. This is mainly because Holland emerged as the most powerful area of the Dutch Republic in the 17th century and came to be recognized worldwide.

The term ‘Holland’ is known to be derived from the word hol land meaning ‘hollow land’ as much of the land in Netherlands is below sea level. Holland is famous for its tulip fields, cycling paths and windmills. It is an attractive tourist destination, with three largest cities famous for their own reasons: Amsterdam known as the canalside capital is famous for its museums, Rotterdam is known for its architecture and design with a world-class port and The Hague, seat of the Netherlands government.

Today, more than 200,000 Hindus and NRIs have made Netherlands their home. Holland has the highest percentage of the Indian diaspora in the whole of the European continent.

Indian Arrival in Holland

When slavery was abolished in Suriname, the Dutch government recruited approximately 34000 Indian workers to work on the plantations for a period of 5 years on a contractual basis (indentured labor). When the contract ended, one-third of the Indian workers returned to India whereas around 23,000 chose to stay back.

The migration of Indians from Suriname to Holland started in the fifties and gained momentum when Suriname got its independence in 1975. The first migration was of Indian students from Suriname to Holland who came for studies. In the sixties, the economic, social and political conditions in Suriname were worsening which led to a mass migration of Surinamese in just a short span of time; most of them were Indo-Surinamese.

According to indiaempire.com, today, the Surinamese Indian community in the Netherlands, which calls itself the Surinamese Hindustanis, numbers approximately 200,000 while the most recent arrivals from India number around 15,000.

Thus, there exist two Indian communities in Holland- the Indo-Surinamese and recent migrants from India (NRIs). Most of the Indians are concentrated in the city of The Hague with 45000 PIOs followed by other cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht (ranging from 8000-12000 people).

Also Read:Tracing the Indian Diaspora in Suriname

According to a research by Igor Kotin, Senior researcher at Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, “It is estimated that between two and three thousand Indians in Holland are illegal immigrants”.

Social and Economic condition of Indians

Initially, the Surinamese Indians were descendants of the peasants and factory workers. But today the Indian community has evolved as a community with a good variety of occupations. The NRIs are mostly doctors, businessman, engineers, scientists etc. There is a significant increase in the number of Indian families in Holland. The import of leather, tobacco, textiles and consumer goods has given rise to setting up of trading centers in Holland. There are a number of organizations set up to protect the social interests of the Indian community such as the Netherlands Indian Association which organizes cultural events, Indian Ladies club and Foundation of Critical choices for India that prepares studies on issues important for India.

Even today, Surinamese Indians still speak Sarnami Hindi which is a mixture of Bhojpuri and Awadhi language. The Surinamese Indians have managed to integrate well into the society of Holland and contribute to the country’s social and economic life. A number of schools have been set up that teache Hindi and religious subjects.

Murugan Temple, Roermond, The Netherlands
Murugan Temple, Roermond, The Netherlands

RELIGION

In Holland, the majority of Indians are Hindus (80%) and remaining are Muslims (16%) and Christians (4%). There are approximately 2000 Sikhs. A number of Hindu temples have been built by the Surinamese Indians in Holland. The first one was established in The Hague. The biggest Hindu temple is located in Wijchen, a municipality In South Holland. Today there are about 50 mandirs in Holland, a majority of them been set up by Surinamese Indians. Gurdwaras have also come up in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague for Sikhs.

The Aksa mosque in The Hague, Holland Image: Wikipedia
The Aksa mosque in The Hague, Holland
Image: Wikipedia

There is a total of 500 mosques in Holland. The first mosque was founded in The Hague. The biggest mosque is also located in Hague. The Dutch government has also allowed religious groups to set up their own schools. Most of them are Christian schools. Surinamese Indians also run exclusive schools for Hindu community which number to around 5. Muslim schools are 45 in number. Yoga and Ayurveda are also widely practiced.

The concept of ‘arranged marriages’ is still prevalent. The 1980s saw a significant number of marriages between Surinamese Hindu women and Indian men. This produced a significant number of children of mixed parentage but with strong Indian links.

The Indian diaspora in Holland takes pride in belonging to one of the ancient civilizations of the world and is conscious of its rich culture and heritage.

CULTURE

Indians in Holland have made great efforts in preserving their ethnic culture and religion.

Dance & Music

Bharatnatyam and Kathak were the first traces of Indian culture brought by the immigrants in Holland. Many dance schools are established across different municipalities in Holland that teach folk dance, classical Indian dances and modern Indian dance styles. According to Sandra Hira, Chief editor of the Global Atlas of the Indian Diaspora, “Interestingly one of the first dance schools was established by a Dutch lady Mrs. Ans Steenhuis (artist name Damayanti) in The Hague. She had learned the dance from teachers from India, and wrote an (unpublished) manuscript in Dutch as a guide to Indian classical dances.” There are many bands that play Bollywood, folk, and Caribbean Creole music. Many Indian musicians sing at marriages, events, birthdays and other ceremonies. Dutch theaters are also providing plenty of chances to Indian musicians and singers to showcase their talent. Many music and dance students visit India to refine their skills.

Cuisine

Royal Tandoori Indian Restaurant in Amsterdam Image: en.iens.nl
Royal Tandoori Indian Restaurant in Amsterdam
Image: en.iens.nl

Many Indian restaurants have come up all around Holland. Eateries offering Rotis are being run by Surinamese Indians and some Dutch people too. The city of Amsterdam has about 40 Indian restaurants.  Indian Cooking lessons are also given at several places. All major cities and towns have Indian shops selling Basmati rice, vegetables, fruits, Indian spices, flour and home products.

Cinema

The Indian cinema is highly popular in Holland. A number of Dutch cable companies offer access to Indian TV channels and movie broadcasts. The public broadcasts often air Indian films. The Indian Surinamese community in 2000 held an Annual Film Festival in The Hague wherein latest Indian movies were premiered and discussions were held regarding Indian cinema. In 2005, Amsterdam also hosted the IIFA Awards (International Indian Film Academy Awards). There are video outlets being owned and managed by Indians that sell and rent DVD and Videos with Indian movies and songs. The Indian cinema is also popular among the Moroccan and Turkish diaspora in Holland.

Festivals

Indian festivals are celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm in Holland. Holi and Diwali are two of the biggest festivals for the Indian community. On the day of Holi, people gather at the public square to sprinkle water and colors on each other in spite of the chilly weather. The main water fountain of Rotterdam displays colored water. Dances are performed and music is played. On Diwali, diyas are lit in homes. The Hague city also hosts an annual Milan festival to commemorate the different Diaspora in Holland. July 1 for the Africans when slavery was abolished, June 5 when Indian Arrival day is celebrated and August 8 for the Javanese community for celebrating their immigration day. The Milan festival is attended by many people mostly Indians. Rotterdam city also organizes Ramlila.

Media

There is a publication of magazines geared towards the Indian community. The Surinamese Indians have established their own media network. There are dating sites on the Internet for Indians in Holland. The public network airs weekly programs for the Indian community. Radio stations have also been set up by the Indian community to cater to their own interests. They also serve as a medium for important communication relating to death, birthdays, marriages, events etc.

The Kingdom of Netherlands is harboring a whole new world of Indian culture created by the Indian community. It proves that Indians can win hearts of everyone and every nation. They can paint the whole world with their colors and can never leave behind their culture and traditions.

Shubhi Mangla is an intern at Newsgram and a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. Twitter @shubhi_mangla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism
Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana

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Paintings Which Beautifully Depict Scenes From Ramayana

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Ramayana
Ram lifting the bow during Sita Swayambar. Wikimedia Commons.

Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic which describes the narrative of Ayodhya Prince lord Rama’s struggles. The struggles include- exile of 14 years, abduction of his wife Sita, reaching Lanka, destruction of the evil. It is strongly ingrained in the Indian culture, especially, the Hindu culture since a long time. Hindus celebrate Diwali based on the narratives of Ramayana.

The story of Ramayana gives out the beautiful message that humanity and service to the mankind is way more important than kingdom and wealth. Below are five paintings describing the scenes from Ramayana:

1. Agni Pariksha in Ramayana

Ramayana
Agni Pariksha. Wikimedia.

When Lord Rama questions Sita’s chastity, she undergoes Agni Pariksha, wherein, she enters a burning pyre, declaring that if she has been faithful to her husband then the fire would harm her. She gets through the test without any injuries or pain. The fire God, Agni, was the proof of her purity. Lord Rama accepts Sita and they return to Ayodhya. 

2. Scene From The Panchavati Forest

Ramayana
scene from the panchavati forest. wikimedia.

The picture describes a scene from the Panchavati forest. It is believed that Lord Rama built his forest by residing in the woods of Panchavati, near the sources of the river Godavari, a few miles from the modern city of Mumbai. He lived in peace with his wife and brother in the forest.

3. Hanuman Visits Sita

Ramayana
Hanuman meets Sita. Wikimedia.

Hanuman reaches Lanka in search of Sita. At first, he was unable to find Sita. He later saw a woman sitting in Ashok Vatika, drowned in her sorrows, looked extremely pale. He recognized her. After seeing the evil king, Ravana making her regular visit to Sita, he hid somewhere in the Vatika. After Ravana left, Hanuman proved Sita that he is Rama’s messenger by showing her his ring. He assured her that Rama would soon come to rescue her. Before leaving Lanka, he heckled Ravana. Agitated by Hanuman’s actions, Ravana ordered to set Hanuman’s tail on fire. With the burning tail, Hanuman set the entire city on fire.

 

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Recent Trends among the Indian Diaspora and its Increasing Significance

As the Indian diaspora is increasingly organizing itself in the host countries by accumulating the resources, it may have potential impact on the economic, social and political landscape in India.

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Indian Diaspora
Indian Diaspora organizing community identity in the host country

 

What is Indian Diaspora:

The Indian diaspora is a generic term representing the people who migrated from the Indian territories to the other parts of the world. It includes the descendants of these groups. Today, over twenty million Indians which include Non Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin are residing outside the Indian territory as Indian diaspora. According to a UN survey report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world. In 2005, Indians formed the world’s third largest diaspora. The Indians who settled overseas in 1960s for more developed countries such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and Western Europe formulate the category of the New Diaspora.

What are the popular host countries for the Indian Diaspora:

The 2010 estimates of Census data of US, UK and Canada suggest that Indian diaspora constitutes three million people in US, 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom and one million in Canada. Indians are the fourth largest immigrant group in the United States. Also, five million emigrants from India reside in the Gulf region at present.

The History of Indian Diaspora:

A brief overview of the history of Indian diaspora suggests that the first group of Indians immigrated to Eastern Europe in the 1st century AD from Rajasthan during the reign of Kanishka. Yet another evidence of migration was witnessed in 500 AD when a group immigrated to Southeast Asia as the Cholas extended their empire to Indonesia and Malaysia thereby spreading the Indian culture in these states. Thus the early evidences of diaspora were found during ancient times. The medieval period witnessed the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism during the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Mughals took Indians as traders, scholars, artists, musicians and emissaries to the other parts of the country.

Old Diaspora:

The first wave of the Modern Indian Diaspora, also called the Old Diaspora, began in the early 19th century and continued until the end of the British rule. The Dutch and French colonizers followed the suit. Indians were sent in large numbers to become the bonded labourers for sugar and rubber plantation in their colonies.

Indians in Caribbean, Africa and Asia:

By the end of World War 1, there were 1.5 million Indian labourers in the colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. At present, around 60% of Indian diaspora is constituted of this Old Diaspora.

Impact of Immigration policies on Migration from India:

After the Indian independence, a large number of unskilled and some skilled Punjabi male Sikhs migrated to UK from India due to favorable immigration policies in the United Kingdom. Similarly, 1990s onwards, due to software boom and its rising economy, H-1B was introduced in the US immigration policy that allowed the entry of highly skilled IT specialists, doctors, scientists and engineers in the US. Further, 1970s witnessed oil boom in the Middle East that led to significant growth of Indian diaspora in the Gulf region.

While the low skilled and semi skilled workers are moving to the Gulf region for better economic opportunities, highly skilled labour is moving from India to US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Has Indian Diaspora started impacting the economies and societies:

With the growing rate of international migration since the beginning of millennia, there is a significant impact of diaspora on the economies and societies of the world. In recent years, diaspora is influencing the economic, political and cultural affairs in their homeland. It is so because the influence of the diaspora communities increases as they organize themselves and accumulate resources in their host countries for several years. The mobilized diaspora are now influencing the affairs of the homeland countries. A common form of exchange is the financial remittances provided to the relatives by the diaspora community. Overseas family networks of the political elites in India are shaping the political landscape as well. Culturally, diaspora is influencing the music and literature trends in India as the content is consciously structured to cater to the tastes of the diaspora.

What actions have been taken by the government of India to tap the potential of Indian Diaspora:

The first Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was organized in 2003 by the Government of India to expand and reshape the state of India’s economy by the use of the potential human capital which the Indian diaspora reflects. Clearly, Indian diaspora has a larger role to play in the Indian economy over the coming years as the efforts to mobilize them increase in the homeland.