Hinduism is today one of the largest world religions, alongside Islam and Christianity. India has the largest Hindu population in the world, followed by Nepal 21 million, Bangladesh 13 million and Pakistan 4 million. All across the world there are approximately 1 billion plus Hindus and it is today the third biggest religion in the world. While in Russia the story is completely different. Hinduism there has been in existence since the 16th century.
A new question which is echoing now in the Western world & Russia in particular is that is Hinduism rapidly growing in Communist Russia or not?
Russia which has an image of an atheist society, with a population of more than 90% Christians, dominated by the Orthodox Christian Church & its wealthy missionaries, are they turning towards the Sanatan Dharam (Hinduism)?
Well, the answer lies in understanding the following:
The rise of Islam and Christianity saw the world divide into two blocks, several mighty Islamic kingdoms ruled half of the world and all Islamic nations have mostly been kingdoms without democracy. Whereas after the religions Christian crusades the Christian republics madeChristianity the official religion in their countries. Ingenuously Islam as a religion does not leave enough scope for other religions to flourish and prosper. This is evident and can be easily proven by the global historical data available today.
During the communist regime of then USSR, most of the religions shrunk to a great extent. The then Russian society was more of an atheist in nature. But things started changingradically after the fall of USSR which created a very chaotic situation within the region. The orthodox Christian churches backed by western countries started taking over the Russian society, using its wealthy missionaries equipped with money & resources.
The Russian society which had long been under the rule of communists with atheist ideology was now free to choose a religion of their choice. Having a remarkable history of Christianity within their country, there was now a vacuum in the Russian society after the disintegration of USSR. The Christian missionaries filled that gap very well and swayed the Russian elites for obvious geo-political reasons.
Now when we say, Russia has a great Christian history of its own, it means that Christianity was widespread in the Russian society from the beginning.In 987, when Islam & Christianity were the dominant forces in Europe & Central Asia, King Vladimir of Russia had two choices, either to accept Islam or Christianity as his state religion. Due to the unequal status of women & circumcision in Islam, which was against their Russian culture as they practiced a religion called Slavic which later on proved to be Russian version of Hinduism, he decided to go for Christianity as a state religion for his Byzantine empire & several Christian missionaries worked very hard to convert the Slavic people into Christianity by mass conversions.
There was a time when Hinduism had almost vanished from the soil of Russia & most of the Hindu temples were either converted to Churches or Mosques. But a few years back an interesting development started in the same Russia when Russians started to question their adopted religion & started to come under the influence of Sanatan Dharma through different Hindu spiritual organizations & spiritual Gurus such as ISKON, Brahmakumari and others.
People started searching alternatives, a religion/faith or a process which will not just show them the flare of burning alive in the hell but also answer their questions and clear their doubts about life and religions.
Hinduism appeared to be a remedy for all such people, its philosophy not only gives freedom to choose the right path under the guidance of Sanatan values but also encourages different thoughts & welcomes critics to ask number of questions till he/she is not satisfied.
This opened a new door for the western world to explore knowledge and spirituality. It gave them the freedom to find the difference between right & wrong, good & bad, get logical answers to their infinite questions without any fear;something that they always wanted to do, but were not allowed to do so.
But is this the only reason why Russians were or are attracted towards Hinduism or is there something more to this. When we do a thorough research and study, we find that it has deep rooted reasons, something which makes the belief even stronger.
Here are some interesting facts which not many know about:
- Volga, an old village of Russia, an idol of God Vishnu was discovered, dating back to 7th-10th century.
- Archeologist’s excavated 4000-year-old Aryan city in Russia. They found 20 spiral-shaped settlements in southern Siberia bordering Kazakhstan. These structures were similar to the buildings of the beginning period architecture style of western civilization in Europe.
- According to some historians like Bettany Hughes, Aryan languages are the predecessors of a number of languages spoken in Europe.
- There were lots of chariots, make-up kits, pieces of pottery discovered by Archeologist’s in Russia with Swastik sign marked on them. Swastika’s original meaning according to Sanatan Dharma/Culture is Sun & eternal life.
- Old Russian languages have a notable derivation from the ancient languages of India i.e. Sanskrit.
As mentioned earlier above, Russian people used to practice Slavic religion which in rituals, worship procedure, deities etc. is very similar to Sanatan Dharma. They used to worship Vedic deities like
- Holy trees
These deities are still worshipped by modern day Hindus. There were many Hindu idols discovered while doing excavations in Russia like Vishnu, Durgaetc.&it’s now a fact accepted by the western scholars that the first inhabitants of Russia were Hindus. These facts & figures along with the rich philosophy of Sanatan Dharma created a huge attraction within Russians who are now desperately searching their roots,which is directing them towards their origin i.e. Sanatan Dharma. Despite the fact that Hinduism is not involved in any kind of religious power game &the religion does not believe in or practice conversion.
This is the reason even though the population of Hindus in Russia is only 140,000 which is 0.1% of the population (as per the 2010 census), but consider it a fission at work which is organic and based on values of dharma and karma. With every passing day large numbers of Russians are coming to their roots & embracing Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma.
There is a universal fact about Hinduism that, it is NOT a religion but a WAY OF LIFE.
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