PEARLAND, TX: More than twenty-five delegates gathered recently at Sri Meenakshi Temple on Pearland, TX to discuss the state of Hinduism in Kerala and related issues in Kerala Hindu community overseas.
The meeting was called to discuss the declining population of Hindus as well as corresponding decline of public presence in this populous Indian state. Further, it touched upon the topic of overseas Kerala Hindus unable to assert their identity in the larger NRI milieu.
Dr Jay Raman, a community leader and one of the distinguished speakers at the seminar, expressed grave concern on the rapidly decreasing percentage of Hindu population. He gave a historical perspective by outlining the many factors that might have caused the Hindu decline in Kerala. Dr Raman stated the predicament of Hindus in Kerala could be because of absence of many Hindu reformers in the centuries between Adi Shankara until the 20th century when Sri Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamigal appeared on the scene.
Also, the stranglehold on Hinduism by the extremely orthodox Brahmin Namboothiris may have caused attrition in Hindu numbers, who could have fallen to aggressive proselytization. The Missionaries had a field day in the princely states like Travancore and Cochin with very weak rulers. Divans like Col. Monroe did everything possible to destroy the economic power of temples and Hindus. Also the great caste differences led to a weak Hindu society.
Dr Sarath Menon, a distinguished Sociologist and Indologist, pointed out disparities in per capita share among various communities and the land grab by minority communities which uproots the Hindus from their native places. Instruments of economic control include acquisition of state-controlled property by religious minorities, distribution of public-sector/quasi governmental initiatives to minority contractors – road development, townships, and IT parks. The political manifestation of the problem is self-evident in the fact that out of a total of 140 constituencies in the state assembly, almost half are under minority control.
Further, the Hindus are hopelessly divided along caste lines, bereft of any semblance of effective leadership. In the education sector, there is a historical precedence of minority monopoly; there is in-flow of material support for religious minority expansion and investment, there is distortion in curricula and there is subliminal injection of ideas discrediting Hindu beliefs in textbooks.
There is also an overbearing factor of undisputed legitimacy of religious exclusivity and conversion.
Dr Bala Aiyer, a distinguished teacher of Hindu Dharma, representing the Loka Dharma Seva Foundation of America, made a presentation on the Lokadharma program, which he helped establish in neighboring Tamil Nadu.
The purpose of the Loka Dharma program is to engage the secularized elites of the society and sensitize them to Hindu traditions and culture. Dr Aiyer promised to extend the Lok Dharma program to Kerala.
Dr Babu Suseelan, a distinguished academician and an astute observer and commentator on political issues, lamented on the non-responsiveness of Kerala Hindus to the cause of Hinduism in general, and in Kerala in particular. Quoting latest census figures he surmised that non-Hindus will overtake the Hindus in Kerala in a matter of few years. There is already an undercurrent of prejudice and discrimination against Hindus in Kerala. Sooner rather than later, Hindus may have to flee as it happened in Kashmir, and the land created by Rishi Parasuram and made known by Adi Shankara will look like another Afghanistan. He appealed to Kerala Hindus to get out of their comfort zones, and come together to give Kerala the pride of place it once was.
The delegates at the seminar discussed various issues facing the Diaspora, including the non-Hindu intrusion into Hindu festivals and cultural programs. There is also an urgent need for a Dharma education program that can help retain and propagate the cultural Hindu heritage of Kerala. The seminar ended with a resolution by the delegates to be more culturally and politically assertive. NRIs have played an enormous role in all walks of life in India, and now must unite and rise to arrest the slide of Hinduism in Kerala.
Dr Venugopal Menon, a senior community leader and the moving spirit behind the Mission Hindu Kerala initiative, in his valedictory address presented an overview of the situation. While observing the progressive contraction of the Hindu cultural landscape in the state, he concluded with the excruciatingly painful inevitability of the Hindu’s passage into marginality and held the present generation of Hindus responsible for not checking the gradual demise of Hindu Dharma in Kerala.
About Kerala Hindu Heritage Committee.
Kerala Hindu Heritage Committee (KHHC) is a multi-lateral, multi-disciplinary and trans-community body of concerned activists, thinkers, writers, supporters and individuals who are working towards restoring Kerala’s Hindu heritage to its rightful place. The Committee invites concerned Hindus, not only from Kerala, but from all around to come together and protect the Hindu heritage of Kerala.