A few days back, on the 19th of February 2023, the Russia and Ukraine conflict completed a year. People say that it is a battle between Russia's military power and Ukraine's resilience. The entire country of Ukraine is being devastated by it.
Residences, schools, hotels, gardens, roads are all turning into heaps of rubble. Ukrainians continue to persevere to keep the integrity of their culture despite the horrors and hindrances of war. Amidst the barrage of bombs and bullets and at the risk of their lives, they are placing sand mounds or earthen mounds or tires around their cultural monuments in order to preserve them along with the precious and unique sculptures, paintings, etc. which they house. At some places iron scaffoldings are employed around the sculptures in order to protect their heritage value. At many places, plastic too has been used to provide extra cover. Why are they putting such a lot of effort to preserve their culture?
Because they know that whenever in the future, when the country emerges out of this conflict, this preserved culture will act as an inspiration in rebuilding it anew and at the same time, the future generation will inherit this invaluable national treasure as it's legacy. Until now approximately 1600 cases of probably damaged cultural heritage structures of Ukraine have been recorded. It includes 700 monuments, more than 200 museums, galleries and libraries. More than 500 religious places are also included in this list. Even places of worship and crematoriums have not been spared of bombings.
Perhaps Russia's attempt seems to be to destroy the country by destroying its culture and religion. Late British historian Thomas Macaulay worked in the education and the administrative departments in India. He along with his British accomplices worked with the sole intention to destroy the colonised India and erase its identity from the map of the world. This was a very devious scheme. Their mantra was 'To kill the culture, kill the language'. Destroy India's language and it will automatically destroy its very rich culture. He did this with a very evil intention. Many cultures of the world have faced such invasions at regular periods in their history. India has been subjected to invasions and atrocities for centuries. But the country of India still stands firm. At its root is the ingrained culture of the country. It is important to preserve and nurture such a culture that it should spread beyond the borders of the country as well. If a culture is confined to a single place, it gradually decays over time. Also, it is necessary to spread it to other nations, so that the migrant countrymen living in those countries along with their children also get to learn about the culture.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj understood this fact very well. So, during his tenure as the head of BAPS organization, he constructed wonderful temples in many countries like America, Britain, France, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan etc. and built numerous cultural centers along with it. Now, Mahant Swami Maharaj is taking this work forward. Temples built abroad have numerous advantages like,
1) Preservation and Enrichment of Culture:
The establishment of temples abroad helps in preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of a religion. It provides a platform for those living in these countries to celebrate festivals and perform their religious practices in a communal environment. As a result, in accordance with our culture, language, food habits, spiritual values, education and the overall future are well secured.
2) Community Building:
Temples provide a place for Indians living abroad to come together, socialize and create a sense of community. They serve as a meeting point for people of all ages and backgrounds who share a common faith and cultural identity.
3) Spiritual support:
Temples provide spiritual support to the community by providing religious texts, teachings and guidance from spiritual leaders. They also provide space for meditation, prayer and for fostering other spiritual values.
4) Education and Outreach:
Temples often offer educational programs concerning religion, by focusing on its teachings, practices and cultural significance. They also act as a bridge between communities, while promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding.
Temples abroad can also serve as tourist attractions, attracting visitors interested in learning about the religion and its practices. This can benefit the local community and contribute to cultural exchange and understanding.
In summary, the establishment of temples abroad can promote cultural exchange, build community and provide spiritual support to the individual and also ensure and foster the preservation of our culture.
This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Sadhu Amrutvadandas. We thank swamiji for his research and analysis and hope to see the awareness about life and peace being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.