By Shyam Parande
The Hindus and many other traditions of East and West have been branded as ´animists´ because they envisage divinity in creation and worship Nature in its diverse forms. These traditions revere the earth as Mother Earth and not just as a planet and also worship energy in various forms like sun, fire, wind and water. The ´animists´ were and are still looked down upon even at the beginning of 21st century for their form of worship and branded ´pagan´, uncivilised and uncultured.
The 7st World Congress of Ethnic Religions organised from June 4-6 in Athens, right next to the sacred rock of Acropolis and the Athena, temple of the Greek goddess of wisdom, was an expression against these human and religious rights violations in the so-called developed and European countries. It is for the first time that Hindu representatives from India participated in the Congress. Others delegates included representatives from the Baltic-the Lithuanians and Latvians, who are proud of their Vedic traditions, the Asaatru from the Belgium, the Spanish, Italians, the French, the German pagans, as also Russians, Greeks and Hindu representatives from UK and USA. The next conference will be organised in Belgium in June 2005.
Ancient Greece has been the cradle of one of the main streams of civilisational thought, which is today known as ´Western thought´. The Greeks were the first Westerners to rejoice in life, to find the world beautiful and delightful to live in. While the ´Eastern thought´ is the Indian discovery, it was through interaction of Indian and Greek thoughts that light was thrown on human life and brought to an end the confusion of the earlier period. It is in this background that the participa-tion of Hindu representatives from India holds significance. Dr T.H. Chowdhary from Hyderabad was probably the most sought after person in the conference for his views on various issues, apart from his presenting the paper.
Though the pagan groups are still almost a microscopic minority in many countries, the enthusiasm of the groups for returning to their pre-Christian roots was very much evident from their speeches and actions. The papers presented at the Congress revealed that the pagans have at last gathered the courage and will stand to the pressures that might be. A German representative spoke of his ´heathen´ tradition, when they were branded thus by the crusading forces, that overran the local traditions centuries ago and converted them to Christianity.
The struggle of the Deivturiba tradition in Latvia is in no way less significant. They are striving for acquiring the status of a recognised religion. They have many common strains with Hindus and most distinct is the celebration of festivals. The folklore of the Lithuanians is as attractive as any other tradition though the West has not noticed this till date. Given the opportunity, the Lithuanian group did not waste a moment and were prompt in responding with a melodious folklore. Shri Jonas Trinkunas, president of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER) and his wife Smt Inija Trinku-niene were the torchbearers. The group included some youth too who were also active partici-pants.
The theme of the conference was ´High Moral Values of the Ancient Traditions´ and the papers discussed the Hellenic virtues and Hindu virtues, ´Darna´ the central value of the Baltic culture and many other issues concerning the pagans. All the pagan groups expect support from one of the most ancient living traditions in the world and that is Hinduism, which represent the one-billion strong pagan traditions from India. The author of the report discussed the strength of the Hindu tradition and the way this tradition outsmarted the challenges since antiquity.
The Congress adopted resolutions for more meaningful presentation of the pagan tradition to the contemporary world, striving for basic human and religious rights in Europe, preserving the traditions and religious diversity of the world and plurality among the human society. All these traditions are non-exclusivist in their approach.
The visit to the temple of Poseidon and Athena in the vicinity of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, about 40 km from Athens, was the most memorable part of the Congress. Standing in the premises of the dilapidated temple of Athena, next to the famous temple of Poseidon, the Greeks conducted their rituals worshiping Goddess Athena and the Poseidon-the God of Seas, by offering flowers, fruits and red wine. All the groups followed with their rituals and prayers, including Hindus worship of the sun.
(The author attended the Congress as a Hindu representative from India.)
THE book release function of the Hindi translation of the noted thinker and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) founder, Shri Dattopant Thengadi´s book Third Way, which was to be released by RSS Sarsanghchalak Shri K.S. Sudarshan on June 30 at FICCI auditorium in New Delhi, has been postponed. The changed programme will be announced later.