Monday November 20, 2017

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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Ever Wondered what do Ancient Sites mentioned in Ramayana look like? Visit these Ramayana Destinations to know!

Visit these Ramayana destinations the first chance you get, to feel closer to your roots.

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Ramayana is not just a story, it is a way of life which has been guiding believers and non-believers for centuries about the right way to live on this planet. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 8, 2017 : Ramayana is not just a story, it is a way of life which has been guiding believers and non-believers for centuries about the right way to live on this planet. I can confidently vouch that we have all heard stories from Ramayana at one point in our life. Ramayana is not just a story, it is an indispensable part of the Hindu religious law.

There exist innumerable arguments questioning the authenticity of Ramayana. While it is almost impossible to prove or disapprove anything, what is feasible is to trace the chronology of events, focusing on various Ramayana destinations that can still be visited to experience the ethereal world that is believed to have existed in the Treta Yug.

Here is a list of ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana.

You can plan a trip to these Ramayana destinations to feel closer to Him, and personally experience what we have all grown up reading and hearing about.

  1. Janakpur

Mention in Ramayana

First on our list of Ramayana destinations is Janakpur. A key phase took place at Janakpur, one of the many other Ramayana destinations. The ancient city of Mithila, as it was previously called, was home to Sita, where she lived till her marriage.

Legend has it that to get rid of a devastating drought, the King of Janak ploughed the land in Janakpur when he stumbled upon an earthen pot out of which Sita emerged. This also explains why the place is also known as Sitamarhi.

King Janak brought the child back to the palace at Mithila, where she grew up and was married to Ram.

The Ramayana explains Mithila as a ‘divya-bhumi’, a sacred land that pulled Ram to it.

Visiting Janakpur

A small town in Nepal, you are sure to come across compelling stories of Sita (or Janaki) infused in the landscapes, temples and the people of Janakpur.

Sita’s  swayamvar, the ceremony which saw participation of learned men from all big and small territories, took place at Rangbhoomi. It was in this ceremony that Shiva’s bow was broken into pieces by Ram.

Dhanush Sagar is a tank on the area where a piece of the bow of Shiva, broken by Ram in an attempt to win Sita’s hand, had fallen. Another piece is believed to have fallen at some distance, now known by the name Ratan Sagar. And the third piece is believed to have fallen in Dhanusha, 15 km away from Janakpur.

Ramayana destinations
Dhanush Sagar in Nepal. Wikimedia

Visitors can also visit the Ram-Sita vivah mandapa, which has been made in Janakpur.

Multiple devotees flock Janakpur every year o pray and pay homage to Sita during Vivah Panchami, the day Ram and Sita are believed to have got married. The quaint little town also witnesses tourists on Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Ram.

How To Reach Janakpur

Janakpur is one of the ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana, only a few km from the Indian border and can be reached by flight, train or via road.

Travelers can fly to Kathmandu and take a smaller airline to Janakpur. However, make sure you check flight availability beforehand as they only ply a few times in a week.

Otherwise, one can also visit Janakpur via buses.

  1. Chitrakoot

Mention in Ramayana

Next on our list of Ramayana destinations is Chitrakoot. It is one of the most intricately explained Ramayana destinations. Upon being banished from the royal palace, it was here that Lord Ram, accompanied by wife Sita and brother Lakshmana spent eleven of their 14 years of exile (vanvas).

Ramayana also mentions of Bharat who came to Chitrakoot to persuade his brother Ram to return to Ayodhya. It was also here that Ram performed the last rites of his father, King Dasharatha in presence of all gods and goddesses.

Chitrakoot’s peaceful environment also acted as a source of inspiration for the great poet Goswami Tulsidas to pen the Ramcharitmanas, retelling the life of Lord Ram in Awadhi.

Visiting Chitrakoot

Nestled between the borders of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Chitrakoot has a breathtaking location with a tranquil aura.

Quick fact : ‘Chitra’ means a beautiful painting and ‘Kuta’ means mountains.

While all ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana hold spiritual transcendence, located along the Mandakini River, the sacred city of Chitrakoot is particularly known as a centre for spiritual enlightenment, and is a potpourri of devotion, legend and traditions.

Pilgrims can visit the Bharat Milap Mandir, where Bharat visited elder brother Ramand requested him to return to Ayodhya to claim his rightful throne. Upon his refusal, Bharat took his khadau (slippers) with him to the palace to place on the throne until Ram returned to the kingdom after 14 years.

Located on the Kamdagiri Hills near the temple premise, there exist engraved footprints of Ram and his brothers that are worshipped till date.

Located at the centre of the town is Ramghat where Ram used to take a dip in the mighty Mandakini river. This also happens to be the place where Tulsidas met Ram and Lakshmana.

Ramayana destinations
Ramghat in Chitrakoot. Wikimedia

Legend has it that Tulsidas was making sandalwood paste when the two brothers disguised as two kids approached him and asked him to apply a tilak on their forehead too. Not knowing the boys were really God, the poet made the tilak. It was Hanuman who helped Tulsidas recognize the brothers by reciting the famous verse,

“Chitrakoot ke ghaat pai bhai santan ki bheer,

Tulsidas chandan ghise tilak det Raghubeer.”

One can also visit the Gupt Godavari caves at a distance of 18 km, where inside the saves stand two natural throne-like rocks where Ram and Lakshmana sat during their stay.

How To Reach Chitrakoot

You can take a flight to Khajuraho, from where buses and taxis operate. The nearest railway station is Chitrakoot Dham. You can also choose to take the road to reach Chitrakoot.

3. Panchvati, Nasik

Mention in Ramayana

Third on our list of Ramayana destinations is Nasik. During his exile years, Lord Rama, accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana moved from one place to another, to find tranquility in nature and feel closer to the natural way of life. After staying in Chitrakoot for eleven years, the next Ramayana destination was Nasik where they spent a significant amount of time.

Their hut was built in Panchvati, which is famous for its five huge Banyan trees and is only 4 km away from Nasik.

Located on the banks of the Godavari, it was in Nasik that Lord Rama and Lakshmana had an encounter with Surpanakha, Ravana’s younger sister, where consequently her nose was cut off. This explains the rationale behind the name of the place. (Nasika means nose in Sanskrit)

To avenge the disrespect faced by his sister, it was from here that Ravana abducted Sita and flew her to Lanka on his Pushpak Vimaan. Needless to say, it was here where Lakshmana drew the ‘Lakshmana Rekha’,.

Visiting Nasik

The Kala Ram Mandir in Panchvati, Nasik is believed to have been built right where Lord Rama’s kuti (hut) was built.

Ramayana destinations
Kalaram temple in Nasik. Wikimedia

Nasik’s Rama Kunda is the chief pilgrimage place in Nasik. The Kunda is primarily a tank where Lord Rama and Sita allegedly bathe. This makes the tank extremely sacred.

The Rama Kund is also known Asthi Vilaya Tirtha, because human bones are known to dissolve here. Legend has it that Lord Rama performed funeral rites at the Kund in memory of His deceased father, King Dasharatha.

How To Reach Nasik

Nasik is very well connected via air, trains and road.

Panchvati is only 4.2 km away from Nasik and can be easily reached through road.

4. Kishkindha, Hampi

Mention in Ramayana

Next on our list of Ramayana destinations is Kishkindha. Marked by dense forests, huge rocks and the Tungabhadra river, Karnataka’s Hampi can be mapped to Ramayana’s Kishkindha, one of the most active Ramayana destinations.

In the forests of Dandak, Kishkindha was the kingdom of the Vanara king Bali.

It was in the forests of Kishkindha where Lord Rama met Hanuman.

After Sita was abducted by Ravana, Lord Ram had first entered the kingdom of apes looking for her, along with Lakshmana.

After a fight between the two monkey kings, Sugriva and Bali, Sugriva took refuge on the Matanga mountain along with Hanuman. Lord Rama had killed Bali and helped Sugriva win the throne. The brothers then stayed in Kishkindha awaiting results of Hanuman’s search for Sita.

Sugriva’s army of apes also pledged their support to Lord Ram here and hence came into being his army against Ravana.

Visiting Kishkindha

Ramayana clearly traces the roots of Kishkindha to the Tungabhadra river, which till date is counted among some of the major rivers of Karnataka.

One of the many ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana, the region along the river near Hampi in Karnataka is identified as Kishkindha from Ramayana.

Ramayana destinations
Kishkindha mountain. Wikimedia

Hampi has a culturally rich past and has much more to offer to visitors. However, for those of you looking to trace Ramayana’s trajectory, this place will not disappoint you.

Tara Mountain near Hampi is named after Bali’s wife, who had been saved by the monkey kind from demons.

As per Ramayana, Sugriva had taken refuge inside the Rishyamuk mountain. Legend has it that Bali had been cursed by a saint, who said the monkey king would perish if he entered the mountain. Thus, to save his life, Sugriva took refuge inside this mountain.

Pilgrims can also visit Nidapuram where a huge mound of scorched ash remains and is believed to be the cremated remains of Bali.

A little to the north-west lie the Anjanadri mountain, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, who lived here with his parents, Kesari and Anjani.

The mountain has been named after Hanuman himself, who was called Anjaneya.

Quick fact : You will have to climb 550 stairs to reach to the ancient Hanuman temple situated on this mountain.

How To Reach Kishkindha

Hampi is at a distance of 330 km from Goa and can make for a comfortable road trip. The nearest railway station is Hospet Junction which is merely 13 km away. The station is well connected with trains, and roads. You can also avail the bus services by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation

While it cannot be confirmed that everything we know about Ramayana took place as we know of it. However, these Ramayana destinations continue to exist till date and prove that they may just have transpired in reality.

Visit these Ramayana destinations the first chance you get, to feel closer to your roots.

 

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Sins in Hinduism: Facts, Meaning,Philosophy,Types & Atonement

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The sins in Hinduism can be washed away with devotional means. Pixabay.
  • Sin is regarded as an impurity arising in one’s body as a consequence to his own evil deeds. It is an effect that can be neutralised through various practices to lead your life into Moksha or liberation.
  • A liberated being or Jivanmukta is purified of all his sins who does not have to go through any further sins and rebirth. In order to make your soul pure and sinless, practice every deed with God’s grace.
  • The Sins in Hinduism, sinful conduct and their remedies have been referred to in Hindu Scriptures such as in Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, Yoga Sutras, Manu Smriti and Garuda Purana. 

As stated about sins in Hinduism, sin may form up with disobedience to God’s divine laws of Dharma. It may however be difficult to follow, but is considered obligatory for humans. The sins in Hinduism can be forgiven if Dharma is upholded as a service to God through self-effort and pure devotion to God.

Sins in Hinduism
Meditation is considered as the easiest from of removing sins in Hinduism. Pixabay.

What is the meaning of Sins in Hinduism?

The word Pāpam (paap) is often used to describe sins in Hinduism as mentioned in the Vedas and Hindu scriptures. Punyam (punya) is the opposite (antonym) of sin. It does not acquire an equivalent word in English since the concept of sins in Hinduism is different in western culture and Christianity.

Separating the word, ‘Pa‘ means to drink, inhale or absorb. ‘Apa‘ means water, combinedly meaning consuming or drinking impure water or poison. Pāpam also denotes evil, wicked, mischievous, destructive, inferior, corrupt and guilt.

It is believed that the sins of Hinduism manifests in the body with the impurities of worldliness (vishaya-asakti). The human body becomes subject to various poisons (visham) such as egoism, greed, ignorance, selfishness, desires and so on, which emerge with our attachments with worldly things (vishayas). These poisons of sins make the humans to take rebirths and deaths until they are removed completely. In the Hindu culture, Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer and the healer who gets invoked by devotees prayers and can remove or destroy such poison or sins to grant them liberation.

Sins in Hinduism
The sins in hinduism have been depicted in the scriptures. Pixabay.

What is the Philosophy of Sins in Hinduism?

The sins appear from physical, mental or oral actions, due to the impurities or poisons pertaining to Dharma and Hinduism. The poison of sin is stimulated if one harms intentionally to others or oneself by way of pain and suffering continuing the cycle of rebirth and death.

The repurcussions of sinful acts or karma are fault or mistake (aparadha), worry or anxiety (cintha), impurities or imperfections (doshas), evil intentions (dudhi), evil qualities (dhurta lakshana), immorality (adharma), demonic nature (asura sampatti), chaos or disorderliness (anrta), mental afflictions (klesha), destruction (nirtti), karmic debt (rna), sorrow (shoka), darkness or grossness (tamas) and suffering (pida). Others include: inferior birth, birth through demonic wombs, downfall into hells, increased suffering to ancestors, adversity, loss of reputation.

Sins in Hinduism
Visit Pilgrimage shrines to erase your sins in Hindusim. Pixabay.

What are the types of Sins in Hinduism?

The Dharmashastras of the Hindu scriptures denote sin as Pātaka which represents the causes of one’s downfall or destruction (patanam).The following are the three types of sins in Hinduism: Mortal Sins (Mahapatakas), Secondary Sins (Upa Patakas) and Minor Sins (Prakirna or prasangika Patakas)

The Mahapatakas

These are the gravest and darkest sins in Hinduism leading to the worst downfall of the mortals into the darkest of hells. They can neither be neutralized or washed away without suffering. Some Puranas and Vedas indicate to devote oneself purely to God to remove such sins. The Dharmashastras have stated such five gravest sins termed as the Pancha Mahapatakas. In Hinduism,the company of sinners is also not advisable as associating with sinners will lead you to the same consequences.

The Upa Patakas

These secondary sins may emerge out of minor offenses that include incompetency to perform sacrifices regularly, displeasing the Guru, selling harmful and intoxicating drinks, disbelief in God, giving false witness, making false acclaims, and performing a sacrifice for an unworthy person or unworthy cause and engaging in illicit sex.

The Prakirna Patakas

These type of sins in Hinduism form the minor offenses committed intentionally or unintentionally out of ignorance or carelessness which can be removed or washed away by performing sacrifices (prayaschitta) or by punishments and requesting forgiveness. The law books regard more than fifty minor sins in Hinduism such as selling the wife, making salt, studying forbidden Shastras, killing a woman, marrying the younger son before marrying the elder one, killing insects and other creatures, ignorance to parents, accepting gifts without performing sacrifices,adultery etc.

What are the solutions to overcome Sins?

Fines and punishments

The Dharmashastras render both corporeal and monetary punishments for various offenses or sins in Hinduism, apart from the sufferings in hell or rebirth. According to Hindu scriptures, the ancient era saw immense difference in the application of punishments from caste to caste.

Confession

The best path to deal with sins of Hinduism is to surrender yourself infront of God and seek forgiveness with your own confession of the sin committed. The king was regarded as a similar figure to God who demanded a public confession (abhishasta) from the sinner.

Austerities and Atonement

By performing Vedic traditional rituals, the sins in Hinduism are removed by fasting, virtuous conduct, self-control, practice of nonviolence, truthfulness, austere living, practice of silence, concentration and meditation.

Sins in Hinduism
Your sins in Hinduism can be removed by Devoting yourself to the grace of God. Pixabay.

Rituals and sacrifices

The Vedas have recommended various rituals or sacrifices to wash away the the impurities (dhosas) arising from one’s birth, karma, relationships, place or direction related issues, vastu defects, dangerous diseases and evil conduct.

Prayers and Mantras

Vishnu Purana of the Hindu scriptures pronounce the effective importance of the continuous chanting of names of God (japam) in the Kaliyug. Some mantras and hymns are considered more significant than meditation and sacrifices to clean the impurities of the body.

Recitation of the Vedas and other Sacred Books

Knowledge (jnana) has the eternal power to remove the sins in Hinduism. It can be derived with regular reading up and learning from the scriptures of sacred importance.

Visiting pilgrimages

To grant your devotion and gratitude, Hinduism seeks to commit to Dharma by visiting holy pilgrimage place. It is a divine form of self-cleansing and experiencing peace and happiness.

Bathing in the sacred rivers

The sacred pilgrimages are mostly located near the banks of the rivers that are also treated as purifiers. Hence, bathing in those rivers lead your life into devotional worship as a purification rituals to overcome sins in Hinduism.

Yoga and Meditation

Pranayama and meditation are the suggested methods to practise peace and overcome past sins. They also form a major part of the austerities to cleanse the internal mind and body.

The blessings of saints and gurus

Saints, sadhus and mahatmas have been given a special status in Hinduism because of their respectful purity and virtue. They acquire divine knowledge and supreme powers, with which they cleanse those who approach them for blessings.

Sins in Hinduism
Worshipping the saints remove the sins in hinduism. Pixabay.

Virtuous conduct

Sinful karma can be countered with huge efforts into virtuous karma. The sins in Hinduism are washed away with kind and healthy conduct to everyone equally.

Charity

Dana (gift giving) or charity is very significant in Hindu Dharma. By conducting sacrifices and spiritual practices one must conduct charity as well. As a part of Vedas, the higher castes are under obligation to perform five daily sacrifices including offer food to gods, ancestors, sages, humans and creatures.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana

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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana