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Flavors of Hinduism in Malaysia

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Thaipusam, a colourful annual religious festival Image source: www.telegraph.co.uk
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By Annesha Das Gupta

As history progressed, it has brought along with itself the sporadic expansion of Hinduism and its ethnic originals from India. Among the many countries it covered, one of the oldest affiliations has been with the terrains of Malaysia.

A country divided into two-halves, the Malaysian Borneo and the Malaysian Peninsula, with South China Sea filling up the gap, the regions boast of multi-cultural and multi-religious pockets deep within its veins. Though, it is in the western peripheries of the peninsula that one will come across the larger settlements of Hindu and Indian communities.

Consisting an impressive 9% of the total population, the Hindus have instilled themselves in the hustle and bustle of the urban and the rural lives. Exhaustive studies have revealed that the first Indians landed on the shores, sometime back around 1,700 years. The relations further flourished with the heavy trading exchanges that, was taken on by both the countries.

It is also should be known that the city of Negeri Sembilan has the leading Hindu percentage while Sabah has the lowest.

 

Tracking the history – The Hindu presence

  • As mentioned above, the spread of the Hindu culture initially took place with the development of trading relations. Not only, this, brought the Malays into close contact with the religion but also with its people and the language of Sanskrit. So much so, that the temples were coming into existence in this then foreign land but also surprisingly that the rulers of the Malayan world adopted the title and started recognizing themselves as ‘Rajas’.
  • The second wave of Hindu migration came with the ‘Indenture period’ of the 19th and 20th centuries under the colonialism of the British Empire. Most of the Hindu laborers used to work in the mining or plantation industries. And some of these people who are regarded as trustworthy by the British were ordained to recruit their kin and kith to join them in the labor work under the ‘Kangani’
  • Most of those who came to Malaysia were seeking a permanent residence with a better life and livelihood. Though the truth hit home for them, when the community has to face severe discrimination and alienation. The Indians were not allowed to mix freely with the other ethnicities like that of the Chinese Buddhists and Christians. Nor were they permitted to relocate themselves in the more luxurious European settlements.
  • The majority of those who decided to transfer themselves into Malaysia were the Tamils, along with the Sri Lankans and the masses of North India. It was seen that, there was an upsurge after the introduction of the Tamil Immigration Fund in 1907.
  • When the Malaysians gained their independence in 1957, the political and judicial ambience was unfortunately not favorable to the non-Muslims and decreed the return of the Indians, Chinese and Portuguese to their native lands. Now the total Hindu population rests lower than the 12.8%, which saw it eventually decrease beginning in the decades of the 1950s.

 

Wary of the law – ‘The Outsiders’

  • The Constitution of Malaysia cites that the official religion of the land is Islam but gives the right to practice the other religions as well. At first, it may be seen as liberal and secular, though one will be hoodwinking themselves then. It is legal for someone belonging to Hinduism or may be Christianity to convert into Islam but it is strictly prohibited for the Muslims to do the same.
  • In 1957, the State refused to acknowledge anyone as the official citizen of the country if that person does not belong to the religion of Islam.
  • Following a riot between the Hindus and the Muslims in Penang, the Malay Government asserted that all ‘unlicensed’ temples and shrines will be scrapped. Fortunately though, no action was taken regarding the matter, any further.
  • In the months of April and May 2006, the Government unprecedentedly ordered out bull-dozers to be sent across the country and pulling down the Hindu temples. Such incidents repeated itself for several days till a number of Hindu organizations and NGOs finally protested against such illicit actions taken by the State.
  • In 2007, HINDRAF took a rally protesting the demolition of the temple in Kuala Lumpur demanding that the world take into out their petition against the Government of United kingdom stating that every Malaysian Indian deserves to receive a total of US $1 million for “withdrawing after granting independence and leaving the Indians unprotected and at the mercy of majority Malay-Muslim government that has violated their rights as minority Indians”. About 20,000 people participated in the rally and over 300 were arrested. Though till now the British government has denied of ever receiving any such petition.

 

Declaration of Cuisine and Festivals – The Hindu influence

  • In almost all of the nooks and crannies of Malaysia, one will readily come across ‘Mamak’. These are the small makeshift eateries primarily owned by the Indian families. The delicacies will be covering from the appetizers like magi goring to the main course of tandoori chicken and naan to of course the desserts which will please anyone’s sweet-tooth craving for mysore pak or else that of ghee balls. It should be keep in mind though that the cuisine is heavily influenced by the Tamil population as the names of idli, vada and dosa are now common instances in the food menus.
  • The various ramifications of the Hinduism like the cult of Hare Krishna and that of the Shaivite are practiced by many of the Malaysian Indian community. Among the significant festivals there is main attraction of Thaipusm dedicated to Lord Murugan and is most famously celebrated in the Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur. Among other celebrations include the festival of lights ‘Deepavali’, the Telugu new year Ugadi and that of the Makar Sanskriti.

 

Annesha Das Gupta is a student of Sociology, pursuing her degree from IGNOU, Kolkata. She has a special interest in the branches of Feminism, Sexuality and Dalit Studies.

Twitter: Dancingbluepen

 

 

 

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In Pakistan, Hindus don’t get even a ‘Crematorium:’ Will you believe that?

There are a lot of Hindu family residing all over Pakistan and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area

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Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
  • Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices
  • As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence
  • Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan

Death is said to be a great leveller. But the tragedy struck to some section of society in Muslim-dominated Pakistan is altogether different.

Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices. People who can’t even afford to travel, they have no option but to bury the mortal remains of their near and dear ones.

As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence. But with the passage of time, they vanished in the thin air of the terror-torn nation. Even in areas lying in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where about 35,000 Hindus and Sikhs live, the cremation grounds are also rare.

Also Read: Today’s Social Issues and their Answers to Children

The law of the land is non-existent for the minorities communities like Hindu’s and Sikh’s. Without taking no-objection certificate, people from these communities can’t move an inch even. The grief-stricken families have to wait for the clearances, as they are left with no other option.

People are forced to travel long distances to cremate their relatives from the areas like Swat Bannu, Kohat, Malakand etc. The cost to travel such long distances ranges from Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000 and on the top of it, the fear of robbery during these travels cannot be ruled out. Not all the Hindu families can afford to perform the last rites in the manner they want.

Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan. The minority communities are compelled to bury the dead because cremation grounds are vanishing fast in Pakistan.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons
Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons

Although, the administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has allowed the minorities communities to perform cremation near temples. But most of the temples are built on the agricultural lands and commercial areas, which have already been encroached upon by land mafia.

There are a lot of Hindu family residing in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long.


After much of the protests, finally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started building the facility from the chief minister’s fund, as per some government sources.

There are almost 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Peshawar. And unfortunately, due to lack of proper facilities, people over there are also facing the same situation what others are facing in areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also Read: 7 new-age social issues in India that need a check

To expect some kind of generosity from the war-torn state like Pakistan is out of the way. Instead of spending extravagantly on the military expansion, Pakistan should come forward and full-fill the basic amenities for the citizen of its country. It’s the people who make the country and not the other way round.