March 30, 2020
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A Conclave Of Gods

A Conclave Of Gods
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Bangkok’s international airport, which is claimed to be the world’s biggest, is called Suvarnabhumi—a pure Sanskrit word, which gives me my first glimpse of how deep ancient Indian and Hindu influences run in Thailand. The road leading from the airport to the city is named after Rama IX, and there’s another road named after Rama I. I see a huge sculpture of the great churning of the ocean, with Vishnu as its magnificent centerpiece.

Thailand is a country where Rama and Ganesha coexist happily with Buddha and Avalokiteshwara. A Chinese Buddhist lady monk has built a fabulous Shiva temple (though it leaves an Indian devotee rather bewildered), and Ganesha worship is spreading like a reinvented rage amongst the youth. Shops, homes and street corners have Ganapati images in tiny, beautiful wooden shrines, about the size of the little tree-houses we use to feed birds. Songkran (from the Sanskrit Sankranti) is the Thai new year, which also comes close to Baisakhi—13th April—and I had to address a couple of new year meetings in Bangkok organised by the Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh. The present king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, is a living legend, the longest serving monarch on the planet today.

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