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Maori-Hindu relations gain new fillip in Wellington


Participants at the Marae

Venu Menon
Wellington, April 28, 2023

Maori and Hindu spiritual practices found common ground during a cultural exchange that took place at Te Kakano O Te Aroha Marae in Lower Hutt in Wellington on April 22.

Organised by the Hindu Council of New Zealand (HCNZ) in partnership with Hindu Youth New Zealand (HYNZ), the event helped bring the Hindu and Maori communities together to strengthen their whanaungatanga or relationship.

The HCNZ, which has branches in Auckland, Wellington and the South Island is dedicated to ushering in a “dynamic, vibrant Hindu society in Aotearoa.”

HYNZ supports young people with initiatives such as national conferences, workshops, webinars, cultural events and mentorship programmes.

The marae stay provided an opportunity for the two communities to share their common as well as unique cultural practices.

The powhiri or welcome ceremony was attended by Member of Parliament Chris Bishop, Hutt City Councillor Brady Dyer, District Maori Responsiveness Advisor of New Zealand Police Asher Hauwaho and Kaumatua Minister Bruce Aranga.

High Commission of India Second Secretary (press, Information and culture) Durga Dass was also in attendance.

Parliamentarian Bishop stressed the need for communities to establish a dialogue in order to build social cohesion and understanding.

Councillor Dyer applauded HCNZ for its efforts to promote dialogue between communities and noted the shared histories and culture between the Maori and Hindu communities.

During their stay at the marae the participants gained an insight into Te Ao Maori or the world of Maori, which covered social customs, spiritual practices and cultural mores.

Guest speakers expounded on Moko kauae, Ta moko, Maori carvings and other Maori art forms.

HYNZ president Murali Krishna Magesan made a presentation on the cultural overlap between the Maori and Hindu communities.

Lighting of the lamp. (Left to right)Selva Ramasami, Durga Dass, Bruce Aranga, Vijeshni Rattan, Rev Tokaia Nohotima, Chris Bishop and Brady Dyer

“From the family structure to respect for elders, collective community responsibility to sustainability practices, spirituality and understanding of the cosmos, there are many similarities which exist between the Hindu and Maori communities,” Magesan noted, adding, “As we continue to hold such significant events, sharing our culture with one another, we continue to see the numerous similarities between our communities.”

The marae stay programme included a visit to the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library where the ancient Hindu arts of Mehndi and Rangoli were demonstrated for the benefit of the public.

“The marae stay was a resounding success, and we can see the visible strengthening of the ties between Hindu and Maori communities,” said Vijeshni Rattan, HCNZ president                    (central region).

“There is a lot of energy and excitement for our upcoming programmes planned for the Wellington region which will be announced soon,” Rattan added.

Maori and Hindu beliefs and practices have been explored on occasions in the past as well.

The HCNZ held a two-week “Yogathon” at Te Kakona O Te Aroha Marae in Lower Hutt in June 2022 to mark International Yoga Day.

“In the past, we have also held a conference at the marae where we talked about the similarities between the two cultures,” Rattan recalled.

She said living in New Zealand involved understanding Maori culture in order to “align with them.”

“The reason we wanted to stay on the marae was because we wanted to learn their Tikanga practice,” Rattan explained to this reporter. “We have to be careful of showing disrespect or causing offence. For example, if you are in New Zealand and you accidentally go and sit on top of a table and a Maori sees that, it is really offensive to them. While sleeping, your legs should not be pointing toward anybody’s head. This is against the Tikanga practice.”

Rattan likened Tikanga to Hindu practices, such as removing footwear before entering a temple.

The marae is similar to a Hindu temple, with “carved idols” representing different deities or gods, Rattan observed.

She said many Maori families took part in the Yogathon, in which each practitioner was challenged to perform 108 Surya namaskars (sun salutation).

“The Maori worship the sun god just like Hindus do,” Rattan noted.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington.

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