In former times the Hindu culture extended as far afield as the world famous Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Kandahar of Afghanistan and the islands of Indonesia. Had they used coercion to achieve this? It must be noted too, that a Hindu ruler, Amshu Verma (595 CE – 621 CE) came in the 7th Century from South India to rule this land of ours. The Himalayan lands were for ages a place of refuge during foreign invasions of India from the North and the North-West. It was the war with Mogul invaders in India which made the Hindu rulers to send their women folk and children to Nepal. The demolition of the Buddha of the Bamiyan is a reminder that religious hatred still exists. However there is solace too when one thinks of Bali of Indonesia.
At Beijing there is the Temple of Heaven where in ancient times the ruler / priest would enter and after some time come back to the faithful and divulge what the Lord in the Heavens had directed. The populace were not aware that they were being lied to!
Religious strife has existed for ages. Richard the Lion Hearted led the crusades against Muslims in the eleventh century. One realises that the Papal Lords at the Vatican made various decrees and ruled over the lands of Europe for many centuries.
Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci narrates about 16th Century Italy where girls were betrothed at an early age; child marriages took place with many young mothers dying whilst giving birth being prevalent. Pope Pius II had two illegitimate children. Pope Alexander VI had multiple mistresses and ten illegitimate children. He even made a son Cesare Borgia, who had no religious training a Cardinal. This son later resigned and became a cruel dictator! Lately, the current Pope Francis has had to apologise for the forceful conversion of indigenous Inuit children in Canada in the nineteenth century.
Then there were rebellions in many lands of Europe and changes took place. Specifically, in Henry VIII’s England, Martin Luther’s Germany and in the Netherlands, to form the Anglican, Protestant and Dutch Reformed Churches respectively. Later occurrence in the French Revolution, when a king and queen were beheaded by the people, was the final break of the role of the church in French governance.
In India, the Babri Masjid demolition had been a point of dispute for ages and now a Ram Mandir is being built on the site. More recent incident is the finding of a Shivalinga and a Nandi inside Gyanvapi mosque constructed by Aurangzeb in 1669 CE at a site south of the Vishwanath Mandir where a Shiva Mandir originally existed.
There have been extensive attempts by Western missionaries to convert people of the regions of China, Japan and Nepal to Christianity. Priests from the Vatican used to come via India to Nepal. They crossed the Terai in winter when there were no mosquitoes, stayed at Bhaktapur and crossed the Himalayan mountains in summer, when snows had melted to go the China. Missionary’s objective was to convert the people to Christianity. American evangelists, like the father of Pearl S Buck, author of ‘The Good Earth’, served for years in China. Though Christian missionaries were driven out of Nepal by King Prithivi Narayan Shah, some missionaries who had to leave China after the Communist takeover came to Nepal. More recently it is the ‘Moon group’ from Korea who have been actively involved in Nepal under what may be termed the ‘Holy Wine activity’ of some of our Leftist leaders. Christianity introduced in Japan in middle of 16th Century has had ups and downs since then, some members being even executed. The murder of PM Shinjo Abe of Japan, whose grandfather and some of the present politicians of Japan are said to have links to church associations.
The latest in this tale of animosity and murder is the recent attempt on the life of Salman Rushdie. Although the ‘Fatwa’ pronounced by Ayotullah Ruhollah Khomeni was as far back as 1989 and there was a bounty of more than $ 3 million dollars, it was expected that the ‘fatwa’ was not likely to be implemented. In the interim Salman Rushdie spent nine years in hiding as Anton Jacob. How wrong the thinking that no danger existed was cruelly demonstrated at Fairview, USA.
King Mahendra tried to do away with caste, untouchability and social discrimination during the Panchayat Era but without much success. It was during this time that Nepal officially became a Hindu Rastra. Perhaps King Birendra’s proposal to make Nepal a ‘Zone of Peace’ was an attempt to keep up with the times!
Our religious practices have various dans, generally done prior to dying. Just prior to his death, a classical Til Daan with white sesame seeds was done by C-in-C Dhir Shumsher. His wish was perhaps ‘Mritunjaya’ or victory over death i.e. attaining ‘Moksha’ or salvation from rebirths. Many Nepalis themselves do a ‘Dus Daan’ prior to their own deaths in case their descendents forget to do these rites!
Is ‘Kanya Daan’ justified as a religious practice? Is this not derogatory to women’s’ standing in our culture? Should not some re-thinking be done! Whilst Marx has debunked religion, Bollywood has created Santoshi Ma as a religious cult in a society in which religion is the cornerstone of people’s lives!
The truth is that religious leaders of many faiths have been hood-winking the people for ages for the simple reason that faith in a higher being, on whose blessings one can hope for, is an inherent wish for many. It is perhaps because of this that a large number of Nepalis gave their opinion to make Nepal into a Hindu Rastra. That wish was scuttled in 2015 CE by our then leaders in our Parliament who did not even bother to look at the opinions of the Nepali people had submitted.
Happily a Nepali leader in the horizon i.e. Gyanendra Shahi who intends to contest the election on 4th Mungsir has suggested that Nepal should be made, following a referendum into a ‘Buddhist, Hindu Kirat’ state with freedom to practise all other religions.
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd