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Religion Inc: The new mantra

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 19:44 IST
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In an enduring effort to make India's religious multiplicity an example of its unique strength and stolidity abroad, immigrant organisations and groups constantly evolve educative programmes focusing on this particular facet.

The Hindu Swayamsevek Sangh-USA, a prominent NRI organisation based in numerous countries abroad including the US is spearheading its latest initiative, the Nationwide Traveling Exhibition on Hindu Culture and the Dharmic  Traditions of India, in various cities across the continent. This chapter, on its way here the whole of this week is being hailed as a re-visitation to the esoteric Hindu culture and its myriad manifestations.

The exhibition is different from others in its genre because it does not limit itself to the facile visage of Hinduism, such as rituals; practices; history and metamorphoses. Instead, it shifts its gaze towards the religion's contribution in dispersed and overtly disconnected fields of India's progress, such as scientific and inquiry led disciplines like arithmetic, science, polity and architecture.

A travelling exhibition, put up for Hindus and non-Hindus alike, it also explores the Dharmic  traditions of Indian families within and outside India and its significant influence in our way of life. As such, the show consists of informative, illustrative posters on various quasi-cultural themes, displayed in community halls, temples, and other venues. The exhibition is being held at various locations, beginning mid-May through September 2006. In Atlanta, it sees the penultimate showcasing.

Naturally, for interested audiences keen to learn about friends from the Indian Diaspora, such a chapter offers easy, assimilative discourses in various formats. Similarly, members of the Indian community wishing to impart cultural knowledge to their children, born and raised here get to do so under the auspices of an organisation known for its work in that regard.

Staged for the first time at a venue as prestigious as the Georgia State Capitol Hill the week beginning August 28, 2006, the Atlanta chapter, like the other cities across the country, features an exhibition covering differing themes reflective of the Indian milieu, as "Festivals", "Dance and Music", "Yoga and Ayurveda", "Contributions in Mathematics and Science" and the "Role of Hindu Women". It is a bird's eye view of the inexorably huge Hindu cultural heritage.

Beginning with the exploration of the basic autonomy in man to perceive and approach his God, these visual montages underscore the relevance of concepts like Dharma, Karma, Ahimsa, Moksha  which are not circumscribed within just Hinduism but extend to inherited traditions like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

Ancient scriptures like the Vedas, Upanishads, Agamas, Puranas, Geeta, Smritis  and Darshanas  are similarly indicative of poignant kernels of wisdom that lie trapped in its legacy. Exhibits displaying India's architectural excellence point to ancient town planning and marvelous rock cut temple carvings (Ajanta, and Mahabalipuram). Art, especially divinity in music and dance integrated into religious awakening is an easily identifiable concept for most Indians. Equally, Hinduism's plurality is reflected most in the richness of its festivals.

The nation's contribution to astronomy, mathematics (pioneering the decimal system, various concepts in trigonometry, zero and even calculus), chemistry, metallurgy and maritime sciences, on display here, is all too hurriedly forgotten in the haze of modern day achievements in software, space, science and computing, but it remains a fact of much pride for Indians.

Like any other sect, Hinduism remains either a niche quarry for the enlightened enthusiast, or a largely misconstrued phenomenon resting on loosely held, effete stereotypes. Representation of its ruddy dynamism and continuing transformation into one the most assimilative of human traditions is as yet elusive to the common man.

Given the connotations, positive, negative and aphoristic associated with Hinduism, a religion as vast as it is plural; it behooves believers in the faith to opine their own individual experience with it, for it remains the oldest of all religious traditions, with one out of every sixth person being a follower and has layers unfathomable to casual glance.

This and other such efforts that express a belief system and showcase it to the general public are remarkable in that they palpably bring to the table much more than can be studied in cubby-holed libraries. Cultural endeavours like this do not necessarily make religion indispensable, but more significantly, neither do they let it remain incidental or peripheral.

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