Friday, September 7, 2007

Hinduism in Thailand

When we first started on our journey to have children, we thought to adopt from Nepal. Hoping to learn more about the predominant religion there, I picked up an excellent book, The Little Book of Hindu Deities, to give me a crash course on Hindu gods. I feared this would be a very complicated and confusing subject for me to grasp, so I opted for this amazingly simple, adorably illustrated book, written and illustrated by an animator for Pixar of Indian ancestry. He takes a very lighthearted approach to presenting the symbolism of each god and goddess, and the book also covers the ten avatars of Vishnu, Hindu epics, the nine planets, animals gods, etc. The illustrations of even the more destructive gods are actually "cute". I've tried to educate myself about Hinduism before, and always struggled to understand followers' devotion to the more frightening gods and goddesses (Kali, especially), but the author's explanation of Kali finally makes sense to me, and, while she wouldn't be my first choice, I feel I've come to a greater understanding of her.

90-95% of Thais are Buddhist (the highest per capita Buddhist country in the world), but many aspects of Thai religious culture seem to be tied not only to Buddhism but also to folk beliefs and aspects of Hinduism. This article was very interesting in discussing the role Hinduism plays in Thailand. I had thought that when we switched countries to Thailand, this book would be of little use to me, but I have already used it as a reference several times when reading Thai folk stories. I highly recommend this book -I've enjoyed it's illustrations, and learned something about another major world religion as well.


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