Sustaining Hinduism in Sri Lanka

The piece today explores in brief facilities afforded at present to sustain Hinduism in the country with suggestions.

Hindu temples in any part of the country is registered at the Department with a proviso they be administrated by only Hindus.

To register a temple, an application form, issued by the Department must be completed and the following documents to be annexed along with the form.

• A short history of the temple

• Details of the Administrative Committee

• An approved constitution of the administration

• The document in proof of the temple land.

• Annual reports of the administration and accounts

• Details of temple idols, special poojas, and annual festivals

• Details of social activities carried out by the temple

• Bank account no. (if available)

Hindu institution

To register a Hindu Religious Institution, an application form issued by the Department should be completed and the following documents to be annexed.

• Minutes of the Inaugural General Meeting.

• Elected office-bearers’ particulars

• An approved constitution.

• Action plan.

• Particulars of accounts.

• Particulars of Hindu Aranery school – if conducted

• Bank account no. (If available)

Hindu Aranery school

Aranery schools are registered in the Department. An Aranery school should be managed under the temple or organisation which is registered in the Department.

To register an Aranery school an application form issued by the department should be completed and the following documents to be annexed.

• Registered certificate of the administrative Hindu temple / Hindu institutions which should be registered under the department.

• Details of the Aranery school students

• Attendances of the students for previous three months.

• Full details of the Aranery school teachers

The completed application and supporting documents to be sent under registered post to: The Director, Department of Hindu Religious and Culture Affairs.

Nandhi Flag

The Nandi Flag is considered as the symbol of Hindu religion. The Department prints and distributes these flags to Hindu temples and Hindu organisations for the purpose of hoisting and decorations. By submitting a request letter and a programme notice the temple authorities can request for these flag.

Aranery schools

Various titles of reference books for the promotion of Aranery schools are printed by the department. Such books are issued free on the basis of the number of children.

Uniforms

The Aranery schoolchildren requested to wear uniform when they attend the school. The department issue uniform materials for the boys and girls separately and also the male and female teachers of Aranery schools are requested to wear uniforms for these classes.

Sarees for female teachers and Veshti shirt materials for male teachers are issued free by the department.

In order to facilitate the collective prayer the musical instruments such as Suruthi boxes and Thalam were supplied to the Aranery schools.

Hindu Culture Fund

The Hindu Cultural Fund was established by Act No. 31 of 1985 with a view to promote Hindu Religious and Cultural activities independently.

The Hindu Cultural Fund is managed by a Board of Governors. There are three ex-officio members and five members who are appointed by the Ministers to the Board of Governors.

The objectives of the Hindu Cultural Fund include the following:

- To provide financial and other assistance to the Hindu temples and Hindu institutions for furtherance of their activities.

- To provide financial assistance and other assistance for the construction and renovation of the Hindu temples.

- To provide financial and other assistance for studies and research connected with the Hindu religion.

- To assist in the promotion of any other Hindu religious or cultural purposes.

Education in classical cultures - the Hindu tradition in ancient India

Religion was the mainspring of all activities in ancient India. The child received elementary education at home. The beginning of secondary education and formal schooling was marked by a ritual known as the upanayana, or thread ceremony, which was restricted to boys only and was more or less compulsory for boys of the three higher castes. The boy would leave his father’s house and enter his preceptor’s ashrama. The acarya would treat him as his own child, give him free education, and not charge anything for his boarding and lodging. The pupil had to tend the sacrificial fires, do the household work of his preceptor, and look after his cattle.

The study at this stage consisted of the recitation of the Vedic mantras (“hymns”) and the auxiliary sciences—phonetics, the rules for the performance of the sacrifices, grammar, astronomy, prosody, and etymology. The character of education, however, differed according to the needs of the caste. For a child of the priestly class, there was a definite syllabus of studies. The trayi-vidya, or the knowledge of the three Vedas—the most ancient of Hindu scriptures—was obligatory for him. During the whole course at school, as at college, the student had to observe brahmacharya—that is, wearing simple dress, living on plain food, using a hard bed, and leading a celibate life.

The period of studentship normally extended to 12 years. For those who wanted to continue their studies, there was no age limit. After finishing their education at an ashrama, they would join a higher centre of learning or a university presided over by a kulapati (a founder of a school of thought). Advanced students would also improve their knowledge by taking part in philosophical discussions at a parisad, or “academy.” Education was not denied to women, but normally girls were instructed at home.

The method of instruction differed according to the nature of the subject. The first duty of the student was to memorize the particular Veda of his school, with special emphasis placed on correct pronunciation. In the study of such literary subjects as law, logic, rituals, and prosody, comprehension played a very important role. A third method was the use of parables, which were employed in the personal spiritual teaching relating to the Upanishads, or conclusion of the Vedas. In higher learning, such as in the teaching of Dharma-shastra (“Righteousness Science”), the most popular and useful method was catechism—the pupil asking questions and the teacher discoursing at length on the topics referred to him. Memorization, however, played the greatest role.

Suggestions

• Inviting a group not exceeding 5-7 learned Kurukkal’s from Sri Lanka to design distance learning certificate and Open University Degree programmes in Tamil and Sinhala and identifying a panel of teachers;

• Promoting the learning of Hinduism by Brahmin and non-Brahmins from the age of 15. Ensuring they follow O/L and A/L classes while studying Hinduism with a modest monthly scholarship.

• Setting up or strengthening a National Trust which- manages a fund where tax concessions are given for donations, managing land and property given for promotion of Hinduism, providing scholarships for students;

• Inviting and recognizing centres including temples for practical training of certificate /degree students.

Across the country and specifically in areas of the North and East there has been a physical revival of temples. Manning them and ensuring they are kept open for extended periods is a struggle due to manpower constraints in particular of trained priests. The department has laudable functions and an important regulatory role. It needs to go beyond. The quality of delivery of religious rituals, the practices and the sustainability needs close attention. Unlike many other countries hosting Hinduism as a faith, Sri Lanka has a huge resource base to draw in from India. It’s hoped the newly appointed Minister Mano Ganeshan, MP could help us walk in this direction. 



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