A Meeting of Cultures – Africa and India
July 29, 2011 • Photography & Travel
Today Muni Natarajan and myself were invited to a sacred name giving ceremony that was being conducted on campus here at the West Virginia University by a group of African origin. So it seems that we were not the only ones that are teaching our younger generation about culture, tradition and religion.
This group has been here for 5-weeks sharing with 22 students that have enrolled for the course in learning all about their heritage. The invitation to join in this name giving ceremony (or namakarana samskara as it is called in Sanskrit) was extended to us by Mwatabu Okantah who is the Assistant Professor at the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University in Ohio.
We were amazed to find how many similarities their culture shared with Hinduism. The belief in one God, Mahadevas (archangels) and Devas (angels), the important name-giving ceremony, the smearing of sacred white powder on the forehead for blessings and more were among the few similarities to mention. Two young men came to escort us to the ceremony. They were beautifully robed and each carried a staff (danda). Atop one staff was a peacock and atop the other what looked like a bull. We’ll confirm this with them tomorrow but we could not help think of Lord Muruga’s peacock and Lord Siva’s Nandi the bull.
The ceremony was beautiful and involved testing to see in the individual is honest or not. There were two cups filled with colorless liquid on a small table next to the priest. The priest would fill a spoon with liquid from one of the cups and feed the individual. He would then ask the individual if the liquid he or she had was water or not. We came to find out later that one of the cups contained water and the other vinegar. The individuals’ ability to answer correctly determined his or her ability to be honest. The teaching behind this is for each person to lead an honest life. To tell it how it is and not exaggerate or embellish the truth, regardless of the circumstances knowing that if you were honest all the time things will always work out for the best.
As part of our cultural sharing our new African friends will be joining the morning Hatha Yoga and meditation that I will be leading tomorrow. Stay tuned for a report on this.
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