Saturday March 24, 2018

Nyepi- Hindu New Year celebrated in Indonesia on March 9

Traditional Hindu bamboo decorations or penjor, adorn a street in Glanggang, East Java, March 10, 2016. Photo: BenarNews

Every year, the day after Nyepi – the Hindu New Year’s Day in Indonesia – a parade of relatives and friends descends on the home of Sucipto, a Hindu community leader in Glanggang Village of Malang regency in East Java.

The well-wishers are not just Hindus, but Muslims too. This religiously diverse village is like many others in mostly moderate, Muslim-majority Indonesia – it has nurtured a tradition of interfaith tolerance for decades.

Nyepi lasts for three days and its mood – both joyful and contemplative – infects the whole village. Hindus stay home and remain quiet on Nyepi, which fell on March 9 this year, but the following day is for visiting.

“More guests come in the evening. My living room can’t hold any more,” Sucipto told BenarNews from his home where the coffee table was laden with snacks, bananas and mineral water for visitors.

Muriadi, Sucipto’s former junior high school mate, visits Sucipto on Nyepi every year. And every year, Sucipto shows up on Idul Fitri, Islam’s most festive day, at Muriadi’s house.

“We respect each other’s belief,” Muriadi said.

Muriadi says he has taught his children that same spirit of tolerance.

“It seems natural, as the neighborhood has been practicing religious tolerance for such a long time,” he said.

Another visitor was Sucipto’s Muslim niece, Wahyuni. Every year, her family makes the 50-kilometer (31-mile) trip by motorcycle from their home in another village to pay respects to Sucipto. Interfaith relations are a family affair.

“Our family members vary. Some of them practice Hinduism, some Islam, and others are Christians. We respect each other,” said Wahyuni.

Day of Silence

About 170 of 1,000 families in Glanggang Village practice Hinduism. The rest are Muslims and Christians, both Protestant and Catholic.

Traditional Hindu ornaments, called penjor, decorate front yards in the Karang Tengah neighborhood, where the Eka Kapti Hindu temple and a mosque stand 100 meters apart.

The whole village was silent on Nyepi, when Hindus cannot work, go out, light fires or use electricity. Although not required or requested to do so, many Muslims observed the same restrictions.

Kasir, who is Muslim, turned off all the lights in his house and stayed home much of the day.

“It is my way to show respect to those who observed the day,” he said.

Another Muslim, Misenah, did not run her tempeh-making business because the machines that make the fermented soybean cakes are noisy.

“No, I don’t mind to halt production for just one day. It’s my way to respect them,” she said.

Mosques in the village announced the call to prayer on loudspeakers, but Muslims went home quickly afterward, Kasir said.

Sucipto, for his part, says he has attended Qur’an recitals or other religious activities held by his non-Hindu neighbors.

He joins others neighbors to clean up the village’s cemetery complex twice a year: to welcome Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, and Hindu Nyepi.

Kasir, meanwhile, helped stage manage the Tawur Kesanga ceremony, the day before Nyepi, when Hindus make and burn ogoh-ogoh, ornate paper sculptures symbolizing evil spirits, in a nearby field.

Published with permission from BenarNews

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.