MANGALAGURU: A few youngsters belonging to the Hindu community calling themselves ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ distributed sweets to the Muslim brothers on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi a which marks the birth of the Prophet.
The Bakrabail village is situated near to Salethur at the Kerala border in Dakshina Kannada district. Every year during the feast, Muslims from the nearby Madrasas organise a rally, which convenes at Bakrabail junction. This year a group of youth called ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ showed their heartedness by distributing sweets and refreshments to all present at the rally. This act of showing communal harmony and brotherhood among different religion has been appreciated by all.
BELLA VISTA: When Kartik Mohandas breaks his Ramadan fast he meditates while his Muslim friends recite Islamic prayers. “Fasting exists in most messianic religions. Navratri is a period where Hindus fast for nine days and hold festivities on the 10th day. So fasting is not specific to any culture.”
“I have only one phrase and it comes from a vedic [Sanskrit] text, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means “the world is my family. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, they all had their revelations out in the desert after fasting. There’s got to be something to it, some experience that they went through.”
Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh has been the house of communal harmony right from its existence. Here everyone believes in the age old ethos which has led to upsurge the traditional root of the country. One such instance is of Shah Alam Zaidi. Muslim by religion, Zaidi and his family donated a land for building a Hindu temple and a mosque adjacent to each other. Zaidi is famous among the people of the region, as he serves to the temple with utmost devotion and faith. During the occasion of Navratari he takes part in all the rituals performed in the temple. Built two hundred years ago this temple and mosque in its side clearly reflects the fact that the culture of communal harmony still prevails in the country.
MUMBAI: Maryam Asif Siddiqui might have been a regular 6th Grade student but she’s not. The 12 year old from Cosmopolitan High School, Mira Road, Mumbai, recently won the Gita Champions League hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
When asked what motivated her to participate in the competition she said, “I have always been inquisitive about religions and I often read up on them during my free time. So when my teacher told me about this contest I thought it would be a good chance to understand what the book is about. My parents too supported my idea of participating in the contest” Her curiosity was driven by the fact that she: “tried to understand what the Gita tries to tell us. The more I read about different religions, the more I have realized that humanity is the most important religion that we must follow”.
It’s no wonder that Maryam’s different thinking originates from her family and her father. “Our family believes that one needs to respect and accept all religions. No religion preaches hatred or wrong. However, there are some members who have misguided us. Before these have a bad influence on the children, we need to talk to them and make them understand what is right,” said her father, Asif Siddiqui.
At the turn of the century, several thousand Indians settled in regions like Northern California. It’s the largely untold story of the migration of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims from pre-partition India from the late 19th century up until the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act (which was passed to limit Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Indian migration). At the time, about two-thirds of Indian immigrants in California were Sikh, and as a result, the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society – a gurdwara – opened in Stockton in 1911.
Because Hindus and Muslims in the region were still small in number, and unable to get the approvals to build any sites of worship, the Stockton gurdwara served as a place of worship for all three religions. While Hindu-Sikh co-worship was common in northern India for centuries, a place for all three groups in the United States was created by circumstance and sustained through interfaith bonds.
Over the next three decades, the Khalsa Diwan hosted Hindu leaders and Muslim leaders alike, including the Hindu leader Swami Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship and authored Autobiography of a Yogi. Moreover, it served as a meeting ground for those seeking to build support for the Indian freedom struggle, especially those involved with the Ghadar Party. Despite having different religions, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus still felt strongly connected to India and identified strongly with Indian nationalism.
MITHI: A small town where both Hindus and Muslims have lived together since the creation of Pakistan enjoys cooperation and harmony.
“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us” one Hindu resident said
It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram. Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two per cent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.
RAJKOT: India has amazing diversity. What is even more amazing is how India embraces so much diversity. Showcasing this assimilative aspect of India, scores of people from different religions recently gathered to listen to Ramkatha or the narration of the ancient.
Renowned Hindu preacher Morari Bapu narrated the story in Rajkot city of India’s western Gujarat state. The event was attended by high functionaries of different religious faiths. The main objective behind organising the event was to bring together people from different religions under one roof. Members of about 58 different communities including Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs were present during the recital of the Ramkatha.
BALI: Once again this year, the people of Bali celebrated the Hindu Day of Silence, Nyepi, in remarkable harmony. Muslims and other non-Hindus on the island showed respect for the Saka New Year observance. Nyepi has four solemn restrictions: no fire, no working, no traveling and no entertainment or pleasure for 24 hours. Some refrain from eating and talking as well. Special rituals are carried out the day before and the day after.
The Balinese are always respectful towards their Muslim neighbours, a Muslim leader on the predominantly Hindu island confirmed. About 12% of Bali’s 3.5m residents are Muslim, government data shows. “We will continue to consistently tolerate and work together to prevent any possible conflicts. We will keep a good relationship,” said Mulyono Setiawan, head of the Bali regional board of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation.
“We urged Muslims in Bali and elsewhere not to disturb the celebration of Nyepi. It is an important Hindu celebration,” Mulyono told Khabar Southeast Asia.
MALAYSIA: There are literary and folktale versions of Ramayana in Malaysia. The Hikayat Seri Rama exists in both written and oral form, and the Wayang Kulit Siam is a shadow play from Kelantan on the border of Malaysia and Thailand (Siam).
The main purpose of the Hikayat Seri Rama is to show the ideals of righteousness, love, loyalty, and selfless devotion. This Malay version has combined elements of the Indian Sanskrit Ramayana with local traditions and beliefs to create a highly developed story which is enjoyed by many. The Ramayana in Malaysia is used more for entertainment and social education rather than for spiritual or religious purposes. Kelantan is strongly Islamic, but it is also the main base for the Malay shadow puppet theatre.
KARACHI: Screams of joy and laughter echoed through the Lakshmi Narayan Temple as the colours of Holi consumed those within. Muslims and Christians joined Hindus in celebrating Holi, the festival of colors.
Pakistan Hindu Seva Welfare Trust president Sanjesh Sunny Dhanja was happy to see the way the celebrations had transcended religion and had become an event for the whole community. “We made it very clear that everyone is invited, regardless of their religion, and it makes me happy to see how people responded.”
VIZIANAGARAM: Attaullah Shariff Shataj Khadiri Baba, popularly known as “Biryani Baba”, has been feeding biryani to the poor for the decades in Vizianagaram and Cheemalapadu of Krishna district.
When assessed, this comes to to be around one crore (ten million) people in the last 40 years. Mr Baba, 78, has continued the legacy of his guru Khadar Baba who passed away 40 years ago.
Mr Baba, who shuttles between Vizianagaram and Cheemalapadu Dargah, blesses the people who believe in him and offers them anna prasada at Langar Khana on the dargah premises. Mr Baba himself participates in cooking the biryani. Everyday, at least a thousand people eat in Cheemalapadu and Vizianagaram.
Mr Baba said, “I am just providing meals to the needy. With the help of donors and devotees, the programme continues smoothly. I don’t believe in religion or castes, I appeal to the public to help the poor. I believe that service to humans is equal to service to God.”
Thousands of Sufi shrines, big and small, dot the landscape in rural Pakistan. Each shrine has its own history and associated legends. But the shrine that stands against the dusty green hillocks in Dhoke Sahi Village is unique, both in terms of its past and present. Like other shrines, thousands of devotees have come to celebrate the saint’s union with his beloved God. But what is unusual is that the saint, for whom these devotees have gathered, is a woman.
This mausoleum is called home by women abandoned by their families. These women have dedicated their days to the service of Mai Sahiba. The older caretakers at the shrine guide women in both spiritual and worldly matters. On most days, women share their family troubles and receive prayers and blessings from Mai Hameeda and Mai Rashida, the caretakers.
This shrine, like others, receives millions of rupees in donations each year, which are spent on its upkeep and to finance the langar that feeds visitors. “Once, we received a letter and a donation of a few hundred thousand rupees from India. A Hindu man who had been her devotee before partition left the money with his son and asked to have it sent here for a well to be dug. Since we already had a well and an electric motor with it, we used it to install a biogas plant,” said Rashida.
The Sufi path involves going through specific stages under the guidance of a spiritual master. Mai Sahiba went through these stages over a course of many years under the guidance of Hazrat Babu Ghulam Sarwar in Lahore and eventually returned to the village to give religious education to people in the village. She also used her position as a figure of religious authority to help women with domestic issues. “It was usual for her to call a woman’s husband and lecture him on mistreating his wife. No one dared to disobey Mai Sahiba”
MANDASAUR: There is a picture of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, displayed prominently on the wall in the Principal’s office. Outside is a blackboard on which is inscribed a quote from the Brihadarnyaka Upanishad (Asato Maa Sadgamaya) and one from the Hadith (Knowledge is the greatest wealth.)
Gyan Sagar is one of the 128 madrasas run by a group of women in and around Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district. In 78 of these madrasas, Hindu students outnumber their Muslim friends (over 55 per cent of the students are Hindu), while 630 of the 865 teachers employed by the group are Hindu.
Set up in 1992 by Shahzad Qureshi, Madrasa Firdaus initially used to impart religious education and offered free tuition to poor students from other schools.
“We were educating children from poor families. A lot of poor Hindu families wanted to enroll their children in our schools, but were concerned about religious education,” says NMM chairperson Talat Qureshi “That is when we thought of reviving India’s older system of madrasas that offered subsidised education, and where such legends as Munshi Premchand, Raja Rammohun Roy, Bharatendu Harishchandra and Pandit Ramchandra Shukla had their education,” says Dr. Qureshi, a dentist by profession. As a result, Hindu religion is a compulsory subject for Hindu students studying in these study centres, while Muslim students have to study and pass Deeniyat.
As many as 85 Hindu pilgrims from various states of India came to Katas Raj, their holy site, on Wednesday evening and left for India on Friday. They were welcomed by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Asif Bilal Lodhi, Assistant Commissioner Choa Saidan Shah Samina Saif Niazi and other officials concerned in two receptions.
Speaking in one of the receptions Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Saddiqul Farooq assured the Indian pilgrims that they would always be welcomed in Pakistan with warmth and affection. He stressed the need of interfaith harmony. “We should respect every religion. If we respect humanity our problems will solve,” he maintained. He urged the pilgrims to take the message of love and peace to their country.
Shiv Partab Bajaj the leader of the pilgrims while speaking on the occasion thanked the Pakistan government for making tremendous arrangements for the pilgrims. “The love and respect which you people gave us can never be forgotten,” he said. He added that when he came first time at Katas Raj in 1982 the temples were in pathetic condition , but now the holy site had been renovated.