Wednesday January 17, 2018

The Hindu evolution in Holland: From a fringe group to a thriving community

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By Gaurav Sharma

The winds of globalisation have sprinkled Hindus in various parts of the world. One such place sheltering the burgeoning Hindu population is the Netherlands. Housing a sizeable proportion of immigrants from India, Sri Lanka and South America, Netherlands is home to about 150,000-200,000 Hindus.

The present scenario is drastically different from the 1960’s when barely ten Indian families, who were presumably representing the Hindu denomination, lived in the Dutch nation. The number gradually started to pick up pace in the 1970’s, when a major chunk of the Indians started immigrating from the South American nation of Surinam.

The Surinam Indians were essentially bonded labourers who had emigrated to the Dutch colony in the late 19th Century. With Surinam eventually gaining independence in 1975, many Indians started looking for better avenues, in light of the uncertainty facing the coastal Atlantic state.

Majority of these Indian emigrants, practised Hinduism and belonged to what are now the modern-day states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. With their subsequent immigration to the Netherlands, the Hindu population in the country also started growing by leaps and bounds. Eventually, the Hindu diaspora in the Netherlands grew almost tenfold, from close to 35,000 in the 1980’s to more than 150,000 in the 2000’s.

Now, more than 50,000 Hindus live in Hague alone. Other major cities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam also comprise a significant portion of the total Hindu population living in the Netherlands.

Although still considered a minority religion in the Netherlands, Hinduism is much better organized here, than in other western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

There are five Hindu schools funded by the Hindu community in the country, which are deemed as national schools. The schools, despite teaching Hindi, the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and celebrating the Hindu festivals, follow the same curriculum as other schools.

(Video by: apna.nl)

The Hindus have also established their own Human Rights group called ‘Agni’, in order to address the grievances of the community and to highlight the atrocities that are sometimes encountered by them.

Besides hosting their own radio program, the Hindu community also broadcasts its own 30 minute weekly program, ‘Ohm’, on the national television.

They also have their own charity called ‘Seva Netverk’, to help people around the world. The projects majorly revolve around setting up of schools in dilapidated villages and rescuing girls from the vicious circle of prostitution.

The Hindu population in the Netherlands does not pledge allegiance to any one school of Hindu thought. They are not staunch adherents of one particular path, but rather comprise of diverse groups of religious practitioners.

While some practice the mainstream Hindu tradition, and some follow the Arya Samaj movement, others are captivated by the new age movements of Hare Krishna and Transcendental Meditation. There are also a bunch of people practising Hinduism with a mixture of other theosophical beliefs.

The festivals of Holi and Diwali are celebrated with much gusto and elan by the Hindus, whilst also actively engaging people from all backgrounds and belief systems. The fantastic display of water and colours have captivated the minds of Dutch people so much, that public events celebrating such festivals are now held in major cities such as The Hague and Rotterdam.

In spite of being besieged by an eclectically dense population of around 16 million people, the relatively sparse Hindu community has managed to carve out a niche for the unique culture of India.

The Indian diaspora in Netherlands has kept the fabric of Hinduism thriving and throbbing by holding onto their identity, despite the challenges of secularism, religious conversion and anglicized education system.

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The Scion of Ikshvaku: A retelling of Ramayana by Amish Tripathi

The book is simple yet written nicely. It can get you engrossed right away. Everything is explained well, it is graphic enough for a reader to play it as a movie in their head.

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'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is based on Ramayana, though it deviates from the original epic. Wikipedia
'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is based on Ramayana, though it deviates from the original epic. Wikipedia
  • Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ is a retelling of Ramayana.
  • The book is a surprise to all the readers who think that it will follow the conventional story line.
  • The book has garnered good responses and has also built anticipation for the other ones in the series.

Amish Tripathi is famous for taking elements from Hindu mythology and adding his own imagination to concoct exciting and thrilling reads. His earlier books on Shiva got rave reviews. And now he’s back, and this time he is retelling us one of our favourite mythological stories. The story of Ramayana.

The first book of the Ram Chandra series by Amish Tripathi, The Scion of Ikshvaku, was released on 22 June 2015 after what seemed to be the most expensive promotional drive for a book, which even included YouTube trailers.

Akshay Kumar at the cover launch of 'The Scion of Ikshvaku.' Wikimedia Commons
Akshay Kumar at the cover launch of ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku.’ Wikimedia Commons

How much did Tripathi succeed in retelling us the story of Ramayana? 

Amish Tripathi knows how to mix mythology with his plots, but how accurate was his mythology this time around? For anyone who knows the Ramayana and expects ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ to be the same, must prepare themselves for a shock.

But for those who know how Amish Tripathi goes with his stories, the book will meet all their expectations, for Amish knows how to bend and create a story.

His literary style is nothing classic. Many people don’t even like it, but one cannot help but admire how Amish always manages to create new stories from old, rusty ones. He has an exceptional ability to keep the essence of mythological tales while spinning wildly deviant plots around them.

The narration in ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ is very good, with crisp dialogues and suspense which was aptly built up paragraph through a paragraph.

Amish builds upon the epic Rama, in a very un-Ramayana like manner (He never used the word ‘Ramayana’ which is very clever of him). The differences with the epic tale are apparent right where he lists the major characters. Ram is just another human hero and the story is devoid of any magical elements.

The first and greatest difference between the Ramayana and The Scion of Ikshvaku is the depiction of Ram as an unloved prince. His father, King Dasaratha, considers Ram inauspicious and reason for all his misfortunes. The very foundation of the epic is laid differently in the story.

Many characters surprise us we move forward with the story. For example, Manthara instead of a poor handmaiden is shown as the wealthiest businesswoman of Ayodhya in Amish’s world.

Another example is Sita, who Amish appointed as the prime minister of Mithila in his story. Ravana also only has one head in Tripathi’s version, though with a horned helmet.

Amish Tripathi, the author who knows how to bend mythology to create amazing stories. Wikimedia Commons
Amish Tripathi, the author who knows how to bend mythology to create amazing stories. Wikimedia Commons

The intrigue deepens as we read further into the story. Amish has played with this epic and has made it into a story which surprises us at every turn of event. It is nothing like we would think it would be.

Amish is unapologetic about all the changes he made in mythology and that is his USP.

The book is full of examples of Amish’s imagination, but it is for the reader to find them and judge them. The author has packed his book with all the necessary drama-action-comedy masala, the combination which always gets guaranteed success.

Honestly, the book cannot claim any literary merit, but Amish’s easy prose and page-turning style are designed to be enjoyable, not analyzable.

The book is simple yet written nicely. It can get you engrossed right away. Everything is explained well, it is graphic enough for a reader to play it as a movie in their head. This s one book which once picked up, you won’t be able to leave until it is done.