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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

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

 

 

 

  • Pragya Jha

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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