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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

India - Observations & Comments

Dear friends,
 
Greetings from Kerala state of India. Both Marco Polo Zheng He's fleet had visited Kochi (Cochin), where I was yesterday.  During the last one month and half, I had also visited some places that might be of interest to us:
 
- Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh: a region where the local Buddhist Chakma tribe are Mongoloids, i.e., they look like us, although in a Muslim majority country
- Assam State in northeast India: a Thai related Buddhist tribe called the Ahom Tai conquered this region in 13th century and set up a kingdom that lasted till 19th century. Many Mongoloid tribes still live in this region. When I walk on the streets, nobody thought I was a tourist
- Nagaland State in northeast India: Another Mongoloid people.  They are Christians today although they were animist headhunters 150 years ago. Converted by British & US missionaries, the Nagas are today quite staunch Christian and to some extent Westernised.  I asked them if there are still shamans and spiritual possessions.  I was told that there had been instances of people who suddenly received "the calling" (my own words), declare themselves "healers" or even messengers of Christ, and then perform healing sessions for people who have physical or spiritual problems.  During these sessions, they were always healing people in the name of God and Christ.  So, in that sense, they remain Christians. I think there are probably similar instances in the Philippines and many parts of Latin America.  Perhaps, even the speaking-in-tongue of Charismatic Christians have parallels with this.
- Goa State in western India: These look no different from "mainstream" Aryan-Dravidian Indians, but about 35% of the people are Catholics, converted by Portuguese colonial rulers who ruled here till 1961.  I bought a book about anthropology in Goa and there are articles about new sects that have appeared, and they are no different from what I have described about Nagaland but they seemed to involved a lot more shamanist and Hindu-like rituals.  In fact, the book says that most ordinary Goans worship a syncretic form of mixed Catholicism-Hinduism.  Many people worship both Catholic saints and Hindu deities thought they may not openly admit. 
 
The book also says that since the 1961 ouster of the Portuguese from Goa by the Indian Army, the number of demonic possessions (or people who complained about it) seemed to have grown.  Reasons could be that official Portuguese authorities tended to frown on syncretism and non mainstream practices. With Portuguese departure from Goa and rapid integration with India, a period of economic and social uncertainty set in. People are confused over the changes and Indian shamanistic practices (which in any case have always been just beneath the surface during Portuguese days) have become popular in healing people over the changes, especially now that the Indian authorities have no issue over them.
 
I have uploaded lots of photos and stories of my journey onto my blog at http://twcnomad.blogspot.com
 

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