Sacred yet Shared Traditions in Kerala, South India: Illuminated neither by Candles nor by Diyas, but by a Nilavilakku

When I moved to Europe, stereotypes about India and Indians that existed here entertained me. One of the most intriguing ones, however, was the assumption that I were a Hindu. Now what’s so special about it? At the outset, nothing. It is a valid assumption – I mean, yes, it is the only country, after Nepal, with a majority of its population practising Hinduism. But what intrigued me was the potential of such a remark to lead to so many generalizations and presumptions, sometimes even seeping into academic writings, for instance, ‘indigenous culture’ is automatically presumed to be Hindu or at least having something to do with it. Being a student of religious studies, it made me think: How does one then approach cultural traditions in India which are often so interwoven with shared cultural practices that permeate into the very core of regional identity? How does one begin to classify cultures as ‘foreign’ or ‘indigenous’ when they have been around and have evolved simultaneously with some of the oldest traditions of the land? This article recounts some facets of cultural practices of Kerala (located in the southwestern tip of modern India), where Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have developed together, resulting in a unique crossing-over of practices and traditions.

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Religion and Bollywood: Islam and Hinduism

I grew up in an environment where media played its role of being entertainer, teaching about life and religion as well. Especially, Bollywood films have been a big source of entertainment in my family due to language and similar culture. The Bollywood industry is one of the largest film industries in the world. The rate of film production is even higher than in Hollywood. Films are made on different issues each year to create public awareness about them but one issue has been consistent in Indian Cinema, and that is ‘religion’. Being majority Hindus, Indian cinema does not only focus on one religion but several religions. Films are made on Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Parsi (Zoroastrian), and Buddhism. The subject of films moulded in different directions of conflict, rituals, integration and intimacy.

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“Hinduismus vor der Haustür” – Zur Symbolik der Kokosnuss

Warum sollten man Essen immer einfach nur essen? Wenn man damit doch auch Kontakt mit den Göttern selbst aufnehmen kann? Aufwändige Opferrituale sind hierzulande immer noch ungewöhnlich. Doch ein bisschen ‚Exotik‘ finden wir auch direkt vor der Haustür. Zum Beispiel im Hindu-Tempel in Hamm-Uentrop.1 Weiterlesen

  1. Dieser Beitrag erschien in einer ursprünglichen Version bereits am 28. Februar 2010 auf ethmundo.de. []