Wednesday June 26, 2019

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.

Next Story

Hindu Icons Which Have Spiritual Significance

These icons have to be treated with extreme respect and should not be touched or removed without the owners consent.

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rangoli
Rangoli, Toran, Aum and Swastika – optional display inside or outside the home. Pixabay

Hindu Council of Australia has compiled a list of Hindu Icons that Hindus may wear on their body and which have spiritual significance. This list has been made to remove confusion among non-Hindus about what is sacred to Hindus.

Hindu Sacraments worn on the body

Hindu icons all year round

bangles
Bangles worn on wrists by women – a cultural item. Pixabay

Scared Hindu icons that can not be removed

  1. Nose stud – essential for girls during puberty, can not be removed for one year.
  2. Yajnopavit/Janaue – essential for boys after their Yajnopavit right of passage, once worn can not be removed and worn again without extensive rituals (not even during swimming lessons)
  3. Sindoor/Mangalsutra – essential for married women. Removal is not permitted while husband is alive.
  4. Choti/Shikha – small hair tail for boys during a right of passage.
  5. Pagdi (Turban, A cloth wrapped around the head) – touching or removing it is disrespectful. It can be removed for a short period in privacy, like when having a shower and must be worn as soon as possible.
  6. Sivalingam (Veera and Adi Shiva people, Lingayat) or other Hindu Gods as pendant in a necklace.

Sacred Hindu icons that can be removed by the wearer

  1. Bindi – optional for women and girls, it can not be removed by others.
  2. Bangles worn on wrists by women – a cultural item
  3. Kondhani – a bracelet made of black thread worn around the waist
  4. Anklets (Pahjeb, Payal) – a metal bracelet worn on ankles
  5. Ear rings/studs for boys and girls in some families
  6. Gem stone on rings for special effects of planets
  7. Hindu Sacraments worn on Special Occasions

    Anklets (Pahjeb, Payal) – a metal bracelet worn on ankles
    Anklets (Pahjeb, Payal) – a metal bracelet worn on ankles. Pixabay
  1. Tulsi Mala – A necklace of Tulsi beads. During special religious observations.
  2. Teeka, Tilak, Vibhuti – essential during Hindu prayers, optional otherwise
  3. Mehendi/henna/turmeric – essential when getting married or when a close family member gets married, optional for married women during karva chauth day. Henna is a fast colour (looks like a emporary tatto) that takes a week or more to fade away
  4. Men are not allowed to cut their hair during Sabramalai month (Mid of November to January 14/15)
  5. Rakhi – a special bracelet worn on special festival day of Rakhi.
  6. Kajal/Surma (dark black eye ointment)
  7. Raksha/mouli – multi colour thread bracelet as a protective icon during special days
  8. Gajra – a flower arrangement by woman at the back of there hair.

Hindu icons in a Hindu home

These icons have to be treated with extreme respect and should not be touched or removed without the owners consent.

  1. Rangoli, Toran, Aum and Swastika – optional display inside or outside the home.
  2. Home shrine

(Originally Published: Hindu Council of Australia)