Wednesday December 12, 2018

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

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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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.