India has many temples that are known for their incredible history and architecture. One such example is the Konark Sun temple. About an hour away from the historic city of Puri in Orissa, Konark Sun temple stands tall, bathing in the golden sunlight of the morning. Cool breeze along the coast of Bay of Bengal, lush green trees spread all around and marvelous architecture of the temple leaves the onlookers in awe. ‘Konark’ is derived from Sanskrit words Kona (corner) and Arka (sun), referring to the fact that this temple is dedicated to Sun God. “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human”, were the words of the famous poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore. Since 1984, the Sun temple has been added to the UNESCO world heritage site list.
History of Konark Sun Temple
According to common belief, Samba (Son of Lord Krishna) disrespected sage Narada and was cursed with leprosy. When he asked for forgiveness, he was told to pray to Sun God. Samba prayed to Sun God for 12 years and was relieved of the disease by God’s blessings. So, paying his respect to Sun God, Samba built the temple of Konark. But according to another historical account, the Sun temple was built by Narasimhadeva I (belonging to the Ganga dynasty), in the 13th century. It took more than a thousand artisans, for about 12 years, to build this magnificent structure. Originally, the temple was built at the bank of river Chandrabhaga, but the water has receded since then.
The Konark Sun temple is built in the form of a huge chariot for Sun God. Red sandstone (Khondalite) and black granite are used extensively for building the structure. It has 12 pairs of wheels at the base of the structure, each about 10 feet in diameter, and pulled by seven horses. Each of the wheels functions as a Sundial, it shows the time of day, depending on Sun’s position. There are spokes on each wheel, and the shadow caused by these spokes can be used to calculate the time of the day! Some people believe that each dial represents an hour of the day and each horse represents the day of the week.
Konark sun temple wheel dial
On three different sides of the temple, there are 3 images of the Sun god. These images are put in such a way that it catches Sun rays in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The temple is positioned in such a way that the first rays of Sun fall on the principal entrance. It is believed that the main statue of Sun God was hung in the air by the balancing act of a huge magnet, that was placed at the top of the structure. Each side of the temple entrance shows a lion crushing an elephant, which in turn is crushing a man. The lion signifies pride and the elephant signifies wealth. This is to show how pride and wealth destroy a human being. Temple walls are full of sculptures with intricate carvings. The overall temple is like a giant sculpture of Sun God riding his chariot.
Fall of the original structure
The main sanctum, which was supposed to be about 70 meters tall, fell in 1837. The audience hall, which is about 30 meters tall, is the main structure now. There are many theories around the destruction of the original temple structure. As per one theory, the early death of King Narasimhadeva I caused the work to stop and it was not completed as needed. Another theory suggests that there used to be a giant magnetic piece (lodestone) at top of the temple, that was used for stabilizing the structure. This magnet was so strong that it used to affect the compass of the ships traveling in the Bay of Bengal. This magnet was removed by Portuguese voyagers and that caused the fall of the structure. As per another popular theory, the Muslim governor of Bengal, Sultan Sulaiman Karrani (also known as Kalapahad), invaded Orissa in the 16th century and destroyed the Sun temple of Konark, in addition to several other temples in the state.
Today, we do not know why the structure did not hold, but even in the current form, it gives a mesmerizing experience to the visitors. Whether you are a devotee, traveler, scientist, or architecture lover, this is a must-see place in one’s lifetime. Sun temple provides a unique combination of history, architecture, religion, and science in one place. September to March is the best time to visit the place, as it becomes very hot during summers.
Contributors to the South Asian Heritage Forum have been wary of all sorts of faux comparisons being made by some members in our South Asian community, comparisons that distract from the urgent issues of systemic racism and policy brutality against African Americans. One such area where some individuals and groups have attempted to appropriate the Black Lives Matter Movement to suit their political narratives is about the issue of Kashmir.
For instance, take a look at these posts:
This attempt by some in our South Asian community to continuously turn the #BlackLivesMatter Movement into a version of #AllLivesMatter is just inappropriate and distracting from the mission of African American liberation from systemic racism and police brutality.
Hence, we bring you the words of a Kashmiri Activist, a contributor to the South Asian Heritage Forum, who is calling out such blatant attempts of appropriation in an attempt to stop members of their own community from misappropriating the #BlackLivesMatter Movement into a form of #AllLivesMatter.
No, Kashmiris do not know what black Americans face. No, not all minority suffering is the same. No, I promise you Minnesota police did not have to travel to India or Israel to learn any form of brutality, they learned it right here. Hundreds of years of injustice, discrimination and subhuman treatment will do it. This is not the time to do a bundle package and stand in solidarity because “we relate”. In fact, we don’t. We stand in solidarity because we are human. Tailing on another races’ injustice to peddle your own is extremely insensitive and sickening. Newsflash, no one on the streets of Minneapolis was asking for a separate land: they cried for equal rights.
Unpopular opinion: not all (People of Color) POCs can claim to encounter POC problems. A non-black minority (me/my people) do not have the ability to say their suffering is even remotely near what the black community has faced for generations. Yes, I am looking at you Indians who try to pull that. (Insert scene from Insecure’s last episode from the pool scene “you like to be a POC when it suits you”).”
As we have highlighted in yesterday’s article, we must resist the urge in the South Asian community to appropriate the #BlackLivesMovement. Because if a conversation has to about everything, it is actually a conversation about nothing.
In Solidarity with our Black Brothers and Sisters.
Calling out our own community when such dilution happens is important and urgent.
The recent murder of George Floyd, in a spate of a long line of similar murders of unarmed black men, women, children, and transfolk, at the hands of a white police officer has shaken the consciousness of a whole nation and the world. Floyd’s murder not only adds to heaping evidence of unwarranted police brutality against African Americans, which are rarely punished, it has also become a symbol of the long history of systematic discrimination, slavery, and racism that African Americans have had to endure over several centuries. Their struggle, both past and present, is an important topic for all South Asians to recognize and stand in unequivocal solidarity with. However, unfortunately, we must call out some troubling patterns of hijacking that we have noticed in some South Asian groups. Consider, for example, the following tweets that seem to have the exact opposite of the intended effect.
This is problematic for two reasons. First, they divert attention from the issue of systemic racial discrimination in America to past events in India. The tweet, made by a lady who frequently appears on Fareed Zakaria’s show, doesn’t once mention the names of any Black victims. Anyone reacting to this tweet, will NOT talk about George Floyd, but about Rana’s highlighted cause. This is not only in poor taste, it is an appropriation of Black people’s movement against police brutality and racism. It is morally and ethically wrong.
Second, the parallels drawn here are not even historically accurate. India and the US are nothing alike when seen from the lens of historicity. India is a post-colonial country that had two waves of colonization, one by a settler-colonial group and another by British colonizers (non-settlers) which finally got political independence through the brutal violence of Partition. America, on the other hand, was colonized by Europeans, who took the lands from indigenous peoples and brought enslaved people along with them. The colonizers never left. Black people never ruled America, unlike the Islamic rulers of India. They never raided or broke any places of worship of white people or any other group, they did not rape or pillage lands, they did not enslave people, and they did not impose religious taxes on people who had a different faith. Colonizers did these atrocities to colonized peoples. Black people were never colonizers. In fact, Black people were brought to America AGAINST their will; they did not have a choice. Those interested in learning more about this aspect of the history of colonization of India, make sure to follow this fantastic discussion by Prof. Meenakshi Jain: Flight of Deities – Meenakshi Jain.
How can People of Color (POC) become better allies?
- Stop making harmful, inaccurate equivalences. Such false equivalences do not help Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) people: in fact, it hurts all of us and our causes.
- Resist the urge to turn #BlackLivesMatter to a form of #AllLivesMatter. As important as it is for people of colour to stand in solidarity with Black activists, it is imperative for people to understand that any form of discourse that deviates the discussion away from the issue at hand is a perversion to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This sort of co-opting is a slippery-slope to #AllLives Matter. Several Black activists have highlighted the problems with this trend, but it appears that this is not something our community has fully understood. When you use language that piggybacks on BLM or engage in discourse that could lead to some version of #AllLivesMatter, you divert the attention from the systemic problem of race in America to your pet cause. As allies, we are supposed to encourage more conversations about the issue at hand, ie, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Travyon Martin, George Floyd and the hundreds of other Black men, women and children who have suffered and NOT divert attention to our causes. Because if a conversation is about everything, it is actually a conversation about nothing. We understand the temptation of using every opportunity for your cause. We do. For instance, we would like nothing more than to seize every opportunity we can to discuss the mob-lynching of helpless Sadhus in India (aided by the police) or the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus to which the state turned a blind eye, but we resist. We must resist. Because we understand that this is the time to grieve for George and, even though we too are in pain, it is disrespectful and insensitive to go to another person’s wake and grieve about yourself. Doing that diverts attention from the purpose of the cause at hand.
- We must call out similar behavior in our own communities. We are calling this out within our own South Asian community because we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT expect Black people to carry additional emotional labour to explain or object to our own community’s attention seeking behaviour. If you see similar behaviour of appropriation in your community, please call it out as well.
Indonesia is often cited as a country that has not forgotten about its Hindu and Dharmic history, but in the process of making such a sweeping statement, the discrimination that is meted out to Hindus by the Indonesian State is ignored.
Indonesia discriminates against its Hindu minority by manipulating the census.
Often when talking about Hindus facing discrimination, we don’t discuss Indonesia’s role.
Indonesia is known for many things such as being the fourth most populated country in the world after the United States, the most populated Southeast Asian country, the world’s largest Muslim populated country, and a nation known for its supposedly “secular” and democratic values. However, there is a side of Indonesia that not many speak on: the discrimination of Hindus and Hindu-identifying animists in the census.
First, it’s important that we start with the KTP, which stands for Kartu Tanda Penduduk (Resident Identity Card)
It is a mandatory requirement in Indonesia to have this identity card, and there are different versions for non-Indonesian passport holders. For many Indonesian citizens, the card is valid for a lifetime, and the government has managed to make it issued in an electronic ID card.
Among the various basic information this card carries, the KTP card requires identification with one of the six officially recognized religions in Indonesia. This feature is problematic because the country only recognizes six religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. Despite smaller animist/ancestral faiths continuing to be present in the country, they are discriminated against, denied official recognition, vulnerable to conversion, and often choose to identify as Hindus, so they don’t have to be pressured into converting to Christianity or Islam.
Of the Hindus in Bali and Java who practice mainstream Hinduism, they are severely undercounted in the official census. A Hindu organization called Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) estimated that in 2005, 18 million Hindus lived in the country, but the official Indonesian Census in 2010 stated that only 4 million Hindus live in the country.
In contrast, in 2010, the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs estimated that over 10 million Hindus live in Indonesia. It should also be noted that many Hindus are severely undercounted because many of them identify with being Muslim on the KTP to avoid social persecution and to avoid discriminatory treatment by government officials.
Since the government has been manipulating and undercounting the religious minorities, many are pressured to put Islam on their KTP cards by the locals. Furthermore, regarding the impacts of the undercounting of Hindus, the government likely has been giving lower budgetary allocations than needed to the Hindu community because census data is directly tied to how the government distributes its revenues to various communities.
When we talk about persecution of Hindus, it’s important to make sure we also include Indonesia because the bureaucratic and census discrimination has significant socioeconomic impacts for the minority Hindu and Hindu-identifying animist communities in the country.