Sunday December 15, 2019

Cambodia’s Hindu heritage continues to Expand: Read here about world’s largest existing Hindu structure in a small South-Asian country!

A small country in southern Asia and a perfect mixture of the influences of Hindu heritage and Buddhist customs, Cambodia has become a huge attraction for new-age travellers

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Temple in Cambodia (representational Image), Pixabay

Cambodia, April 14, 2017: It is unknown to a large number of people that the country that is the home to world’s largest existing Hindu structure is the small South-Asian country, Cambodia. It is high time we pay attention to the jewel of a destination that is this country.

Starting from Siem Reap, once the seat of the Khmer Empire, the Hindu iconography in the Buddhist kingdom can definitely satisfy art-lovers and all kind of travelers. Khmer versions of Ganesha and Hanuman are present all around the city, and both the Ramayana (known as the Reamker in Cambodia) and Mahabharata can be spotted largely in popular imagery.

In Angkor Wat, the 12th century Hindu temple structure that draws millions of enthusiasts every year, Hindu deities loomed larger than life, including a statue of Vishnu at the entrance now worshiped as a Buddhist shrine.

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The Hindu temples (some of which had become Buddhist structures during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the latter 12th century CE), one is instantly drawn to the level of devotion and dedication with which the structures were built, inscribed and carved. The similarities between the ancient Khmer script (which has roots in Southern India) and Tamil can easily be spotted as well.

There are certain things that make Cambodia so interesting. It is a country that has held strongly to its Buddhist roots for nearly 700 years, transitioning from Mahayana Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism following Jayavarman VII’s reign.

In fact, many of Cambodia’s historical institutions mark “the beginning” of Khmer history with its involvement in patronizing Buddhism. Yet, so much of Cambodia’s cultural traditions – and a lot of its tourism dollars – are committed to an era in which Hinduism was either the dominant religious tradition, co-worshipped with Buddhism, or patronized by Khmer rulers.

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Even at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, there is a myth surrounding a sword believed to have been donated to the ancestors of the royal family by Indra, the Hindu deity.

At the national museum, the exhibit galleries are filled with various forms of Hindu divinity, while visitors are unable to differentiate between the multi-armed form of Buddha (Lokeshvara) and Vishnu. There can be many reasons for this. Probably the statues were worshiped as both at different periods of Khmer history.

Additionally, Cambodia has recently enjoyed the return of artifacts from the Ramayana that were stolen from the country during the French colonial period.

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Today, one of the challenges Cambodia is facing is sustaining that rich history amidst pressure to modernize (and cater to a growing number of expatriate visitors) and investment from countries such as China, which has invested millions to embellish Cambodia’s Chinese Buddhist history.

As such, Cambodia’s intention to preserve its Hindu heritage depends largely upon support from the global Hindu community. The sad part is, a big portion of the Hindu community is not even aware of the rich Hindu heritage in this small South-Asian nation. It is noteworthy that names such as Devi, Vidya, Rama, and Krishna are popular among Cambodians, reflecting a perfect absorption of Hinduism into Buddhist culture.

Cambodia and its culture make one value the global outreach of Hinduism more than ever. Even if Hinduism no longer is Cambodia’s prevalent religion, its influence on life and culture – and lasting legacy – cannot be denied.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

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Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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Fireworks
There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali