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A one man army out to propagate Hinduism


Wednesday 8 October 2003

Article paru dans le Times of India, ?dition en ligne du 8 octobre 2003.

BALI: He is an academic, a Hindu missionary, a master of Hindu philosophy and religion, an Indian in love with Indonesia, all rolled into one.

Dr Somvir, a member of the faculty of letters at the Udayana University here and a resident of this Indonesian resort, says his mission in life is to spread Hindu values, come what may.

And he thinks he has already succeeded, to a great extent.

"I am here to propagate Hindu religion and philosophy," Somvir, 33, he said. "I have no other love, no other interest. I am engaged in this effort every single minute, and I like it immensely."

In Bali, where 95 per cent of the three million people practice a form of Hinduism that is blended with Buddhism, Somvir - who hails from Haryana and studied in Delhi University - is a popular figure.

When he married a Balinese girl one and a half yeas ago, the wedding was solemnized at the residence of the Bali governor, no less.

He has just been given two hectares of land to start a ’gurukul’, a boarding school modelled on Hindu lines, to cater to some 400 students.

The gurukul that will come up in 2004 will teach modern subjects as well as Sanskrit, English and local languages.

It will also serve as a home to 10 cows, an animal revered by Hindus.

Somvir, a Yadav who stopped using his family name decades ago, first came to Indonesia in 1993 to do research on the origins of Sanskrit sources in Ramayana in Indonesia and spent a year researching in Jakarta and Bali.

He won a doctorate from Delhi University in 1995, and was called the next year to Bali to teach Sanskrit at the Udayana University, an invitation he lapped up.

And he quickly settled down in Bali.

"Since coming here I have done nothing except propagate Hinduism and Hindu philosophy," he says. "I decided this is what I will do, whether or not I get any assistance. I have so far taught more than 3,000 students."

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations finally recognized his efforts and has been funding his work since 1999. He now teaches Sanskrit, Vedas and Hindu ethics in three universities here, for free.

Somvir has opened a yoga centre named after saint-philosopher Swami Vivekananda at Bali’s Maha Saraswati University, where a weekly class is held free every Sunday and is attended by some 40 people.

"There is tremendous interest in Hinduism and in particular Ramayana here," he said. "Ramayana is like a daily diet of the people. Both Sanskrit and Ramayana are embedded in people’s minds".

"There is hardly anyone here who does not know the Ramayana or does not sing its verses."

Somvir is now putting together a dictionary of 2,000 words from Bhasa Indonesia and the old Javanese language that owe their origin to Sanskrit. He has already authored five books in Bhasa, including two on ancient Hindu scriptures.

For the past four years, Somvir has had a bi-weekly column in a local newspaper, Nusa Post , in which he writes about the Vedas.

"The people of Bali highly respect me," he says. "The governor of Bali considers me his virtual son. What more can I expect? "

Somvir visits India when he can, and his wife is presently in Agra learning Hindi.

"In India, Hindu religion exists at a philosophical level, here it is a way of life," said the young man. "People here may not know much about philosophy but they are deeply religious."

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