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Religiosity among Indian Diaspora in Southeast Asia: Adjustments or Compromise?

Panel Chair: Amarjiva Lochan | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Indian Diaspora has made their presence felt in phenomenal way in Southeast Asia in the past two centuries. While being away from native land mainly for seeking riches or on job assignments, their religious practice has undergone significant transformation in new lands of Southeast Asia. Their religiosity has been affected due to several reasons such as non-availability of materials for their rituals and process of worship; the restrictions imposed by local situations and authorities for building a shrine; and also, the impact from other religions in their area of living. The present paper evaluates how Hindu religious practices which are understood to be codified by their classical texts (Shastra) traditions and injunctions are made to be modified and adjusted in the modern context of their religious life. It also analyses the impact of local major religions (Buddhism in Thailand/Vietnam and Islam in Indonesia) in shaping their day-to-day religious practices and behaviour.

Fuziah Kartini Hassan Basri

Malaysian Indians: Of roots, growth and directions – synergizing 1Malaysia

Malaysia has a rich ethnic heritage that creates the cultural potpourri it is today. Malaysia’s demographics are represented by the multiethnic communities that originally exist in the country and that which were brought in by the British colonialists. Among such admixture of various ethnic groups, the Indian Diaspora in Malaysia (now almost 2 hundred years old) has much at their stake as far as their religious belief system is concerned. This paper focuses on the small yet significant Malaysian Indians and chronicles their historical origin, ethnicity and religious behaviors as the socio-cultural context to understand their present scenario and future directions in Malaysia. Although the Indian Diaspora here is largely imperialistic, adaptation within the host community socially constructs a unique 1Malaysia phenomenon, mamak culture which we will herein highlight.

Le Thi Hang Nga

Diaspora in Vietnam: Religious Adjustments or Compromise?

In modern times, the first Indians came to Vietnam in the city of Saigon (present day Ho Chi Minh City) at the end of the 19th century, following the establishment of French rule. Saigon at that time was considered “Pearl of the East” and was an attractive commercial centre. Most of these Indian traders came from the French trade posts in India such as Pondicherry, and Karaikal in Tamilnadu. They were followed by the Chettiars who were money lenders. These two groups of Indians became the strong links between Indian culture and Vietnamese indigenous culture during the colonial period in Vietnam. During their stay, they built several Hindu temples in Saigon namely the Mariammam, Sri Thandayuthapani and Subramanyam. The paper analyses their socio-religious activities in the temple complex while addressing how the Indian community has had to compromise on their religious practice to adapt to the situation in Vietnam.

Mo Mo Thant

Religion and Indian community in Myanmar

Earliest arrival of Indians can be traced back to the first millennium BC. However, in modern times, Indians poured into the region of Myanmar near the coastal areas. With deep inroads, the Indian Diaspora found easier time to live there when the colonial masters, the British brought in the Indians as work force in then Burma. Called ka-la during the colonial occupancy of Myanmar, Indians were used in their colonial administrative mechanism. As a result of such long stay, the Indians intermingled with the local Buddhsit culture and their Hindu practices got mixed up with the Burmese Buddhist traditions. It was due to the fact that some of them got married to native Buddhist people and became a Hindu practicing Buddhsit way of life whiel still retaining their Brahmanical deities. The paper traces such socio-cultural situation in their religious behavior and their adjustments accordingly.

Amarjiva Lochan

Enlightened Ganesha or Enlightened Indians? A Case study of Indian Immigrants and their Religiosity in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand

Though the question of who came first (Hindu or Buddhist) might sound like the egg-hen syndrome, it is but evident that religious practices of the Indian Diaspora in Thailand has undergone phenomenal changes in recent times. The worship of Hindu gods and goddesses in a Buddhist set-up would appear strange for an arriving Indian but in longer run, he or she would take it as an inescapable situation. The continuity of such syncretism in faith may sound queer but the Hindu-Buddhist phenomenon in urban religious scenes of Thailand has started experiencing the Indian immigrants getting into a religious mind set-up where Ganesha, their Lord, draws them to worship more than what they might have ever done back home in India. The paper discusses it in the reference of Nakhon Nayok, a provincial town where the world’s biggest Ganesha statues are enshrined.


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