Guards Rooted in Hindu Lore

Excerpts from an article in South China Morning Post

As visitors enter bangkok’s Grand Palace, they pass supernatural security guards. Standing inside the main entrance of the royal complex in the Thai capital are two towering statues, each with sharp fangs protruding from their mouths, and clubs in their grip. They not only embody the colorful excess which makes the site so photogenic, but also depict a key figure from Thai mythology, the Yaksha, whose role is to protect palaces, temples and other sacred sites.

While coping with human threats are the responsibility of the white-helmeted, rifle-toting King’s Guard soldiers who march through the palace, the Yaksha here and at other sites in Thailand monitor other-worldly enemies, ready to tackle any demons that try to lay siege or lay curses on them. It is not clear exactly when Yakshas first entered the country’s traditions, but they are depicted in Thai art that is more than 800 years old. A 12th-century bronze sculpture—Yaksha Supporting a Naga—is part of the Asian Art collection at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

The first known appearance of Yaksha is in the Ramayana, the 24,000-verse Sanskrit epic that was written over several centuries and is one of the two most important epics of Hinduism. It may not be readily apparent to tourists, but modern Thailand has been shaped more by Hindu culture than any other. More than 700 years ago, for instance, the Sukhothai Kingdom adapted the Ramayana to create the Ramakien, an epic which is also well represented at the Grand Palace. 


Texas Youth Get New Campsite

Groundbreaking: Subhash Gupta gives a presentation about the Texas Hindu Campsite during the Bhumi Puja near Houston in November 2023. ipshit chopra

After nearly four decades of renting spaces, a summer camp for Hindu children has a permanent home. Religion News reports that in November, 2023, the long-running Hindu Heritage Youth Camp (HHYC), based in Houston, officially began construction of the Texas Hindu Campsite on 52 acres. 

Set to open this summer, “It will unite the Hindu community,” said Vijay Pallod, a longtime volunteer of HHYC. “This is where the future Hindu leaders are going to come from.” Hundreds flock to the HHYC every year. It is a space for American Hindus, run entirely by the second generation, many of whom are past campers themselves.

From daily yoga and sports to mini festivals like Holi, the camp makes Hinduism approachable, with life lessons that are spiritual just as much as they are fun. Discussions on Hindu values always reference pop culture, says Bharat Pallod, Vijay’s 34-year-old son. “When you’re learning from your peers, people who have grown up with the same life experiences as you, you’re way more engaged in the whole process,” said Bharat, who started attending the camp as a second grader. “The kids understand better how we want to see Hinduism.” 

When the camp started, it was difficult to get 90 campers to commit to a weeklong event. Now, HHYC no longer has to advertise or recruit children. The coveted 200 slots fill up almost immediately, leaving 400 more kids on the waitlist.


Chaplaincy Course Official

Course launch: Sai Paravastu, Karthik Subramanian and Surinder Jain, along with local chaplains, celebrate two years of effort. courtesy hindu council of australia

The hindu council of australia announced in December 2023 that their chaplaincy course is now recognized by the Chaplaincy Body of NSW, College of Clinical Pastoral Education, as equivalent to the course offered by them. This means Hindus no longer need any extra courses to get recognized or employed by government and private bodies like Defence, Corrective Services, hospitals, etc. Now Hindu chaplains can help the community with spiritual care, end-of-life care or last rites and have conversations that give them hope and courage. This is especially important in the era of nuclear families. Those interested in the course can email


Diwali Lights Up the City

Diwali in Lion Country: Little India’s festive Serangoon Road.

The city-state of singapore is aglow with festive spirit and stunning illuminations each year during Diwali. Reported by News Mobile, the tiny island nation has a substantial Indian diaspora of approximately 372,000. About 213,000 are Hindus, according to the 2020 census. All have deep cultural and historical ties to the Indian subcontinent. During Diwali, the city’s Indian community, along with other ethnic groups, comes together to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness by turning parts of the city into a multicultural extravaganza. The streets are decked out with colorful lights and decorations, with the scent of Indian cuisine wafting through the air. Along Serangoon Road, the “Deepavali Light-up” showcases a magnificent display of lights and cultural performances. 

Though spirits are high, traffic congestion has become a growing concern as more residents and tourists flock to the heart of the festivities.


Angkor Wat Residents Evicted

Tourists line up to visit one of the Angkor Wat temples. ap photo/heng sinith

Unesco is being criticized after Cambodia evicted an estimated 10,000 families around the Angkor Wat temple complex. Religion News says that in a report released in November, 2023, Amnesty International accused UNESCO of disregarding UN guidelines and failing in its obligation to intervene and promote the human right to housing. Angkor Wat’s designation as a World Heritage Site needing protection from damage was purportedly used as an excuse for moving people away from it. 

one of the sites to which residents have been relocated. amnesty international

Angkor Wat was granted that status in 1992, in part because of fears that the growth of human settlements on the site posed a possible threat to its preservation. However, the designation was not clear regarding existing settlements, which until last year were left basically undisturbed, said the report. Cambodia is now keen to develop the area for tourism, which lapsed during the lockdowns. Most of the families being evicted were engaged in tourism-related businesses.

Amnesty says the evicted people have received little or no compensation and the government’s two main resettlement sites have inadequate facilities in terms of roads, water, sanitation and electricity supplies.


Tamil Saint Blesses Europe


A statue of tamil poet-saint Tiruvalluvar was unveiled in December, 2023, in France, in a commune called Cergy, located about 17 miles from central Paris. New India Abroad reports that Jawed Ashraf, Indian envoy to France and Monaco and Cergy mayor Jean-Paul Jeandon were present at the event.

Tiruvalluvar is known for authoring the ethics masterpiece Tirukural (“Holy Couplets”), compared by many to the Christian Bible and the works of the Greek philosopher Plato. The poet is a revered figure, especially in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which observes Tiruvalluvar Day annually in mid-January as a part of Pongal celebrations.

The Cergy mayor shared photos from the unveiling on X (formerly Twitter), encouraging a response from Indian PM Narendra Modi. Modi responded, “Tiruvalluvar statue in Cergy, France, is a beautiful testament to our shared cultural bonds. Tiruvalluvar stands tall as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. His writings motivate millions across the world.”  

India’s Minister of External Affairs, Dr S. Jaishankar, wrote in a post on X, “The inauguration of Tiruvalluvar statue in Cergy, France, implements PM Modi’s assurance given during his visit for Bastille Day. The statue will be a guide to many to follow Tiruvalluvar’s noble thoughts and is yet another symbol of our long-standing cultural links, a key pillar of friendship.”


Apps Built for Motherhood

One of several apps. rebecca conway for the new york times

A new kind of business is taking off, largely from the state of Gujarat. The New York Times reports that startups big and small are offering apps that combine traditional Hindu prenatal and postnatal guidance with scientific research, weaving in dietary plans and wellness practices, as well as daily developmental activities like yoga, meditation, art, story reading and lullabies. The free and paid offerings are for a generation that answers more readily to reminders from smartphones than from mothers-in-law. Often blamed for luring young Indians away from tradition and increasing loneliness, in this case the smartphone is put to the service of retaining the best of values. The apps help women cope with a time of intense anxiety and stress, They also improve couples’ bonding by bringing wisdom and structure to the pregnancy whirlwind.

a yoga class in Surat, India, run by the operators of a pregnancy app called DreamChild. rebecca conway for the new york times


parisada hindu dharma indonesia (PHDI) Bali began working with Kerobokan Women’s Prison in July, 2023, to provide succor for the inmates. Berita Bali says they will offer meditation, prana healing, healing massage, face acupressure, toddler massage, reflection, herbal preparations and more. Inmates can choose their interests, with the hope that after release from prison, they will have ­useful skills that might become a source of income.

The populations of cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand each have large religious majorities, with at least seven in ten adults being Buddhist or Muslim. Some of these countries have experienced significant tensions with minority religious groups in recent years. Yet a 2022 Pew Research Center survey finds that, on balance, adults in these five South and Southeast Asian countries are generally supportive of religious diversity. The survey asked respondents whether the major religions in South and Southeast Asia—Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism—are compatible with their country’s way of life. These findings are similar to those in Singapore, a country that lacks a religious majority.

the indian government has widened tracks leading to Amarnath Cave to facilitate pedestrian traffic, alleviate congestion, enhance critical stretches and incorporate safety measures such as railings and retaining walls.