Wednesday May 23, 2018

Five nations with significant share of Hindu population

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By Keshav Chhabra

Hindu population is estimated to be over one billion. Hindus make up almost 15 per cent of the total world’s population, making it one of the four major religions in the world. While over 90% of Hindu population resides in India, here is a list of countries which have significant Hindu population other than India.

Nepal: A “Hindu state” till January 15 2007, Nepal was declared a secular state in 2007. Almost 81 per cent of the population is Hindu followed by Buddhism (9.04%), Islam (4.38%), Kirat (3.04%) and other religious groups including Christians. Home to the largest mountain peak in the world, the state observes many festivals like Dashain (Vijay Dashmi, a 15-day long festival here), Khicha Puja/ Gai Puja and Bhai Tika along with others.

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Mauritius: Famous for its tourist attractions, around 48.5 per cent of the total population of the nation follows Hinduism. Other significant religions are Christianity (32.7%), Islam (17.3%) and Buddhism (0.4%). Though the most famous festival is Maha Shivaratri celebrated around February and March, others like Thaipusam, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Holi mark the annual calendar with zest and celebrations.

Sagar Shiv Mandir, Mauritius
Sagar Shiv Mandir, Mauritius

Fiji: With around one third of its population following Hinduism, the religion flourished here during the colonial expansion of Britishers. Most of the Hindus were brought as cheap labour. Though the country has observed several instances of communal unrest, the beautiful island continues to house around 2,61,000 Hindus according to a 2004 estimate.

Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, Fiji
Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, Fiji

Guyana: A nation known for its rich flora and fauna, it has more than 2,00,000 Hindus. Hinduism accounts for around 30 per cent of the total population of the South American nation. Though the majority of population consists of Christianity (around 57%), Muslims and Buddhists account for significant minorities in the state.

Credits: www.snipview.com
Credits: www.snipview.com

Bhutan: A part of the Indian subcontinent, around one fourth of the country’s population follows Hinduism, mostly practiced by Nepalese ethnic groups. The first Hindu temple was established in Thimpu by His Holiness The Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of Bhutan in 2012. Though a majority follows Buddhism, Hinduism continues to be practiced in the southern parts of Bhutan.

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)