From the very start of the confrontation between the two religions, there was no syncretism between Hinduism and Christianity in this French micro-society. The Christian religion bas simply been absorbed and ranked in a specific place within a more general Hindu conception of the world. The overt adoption of Christianity bas been a criterion of integration and acceptance across the whole society. However the idea that the Hindu gods are the best and the strongest never disappeared. Actually, till now, each time people of Indian descent have to face and solve an important problem, they resort to Hinduism as the only appropriate answer. Despite their isolation from India, the disappearance of the Tamil language, the disappearance of the caste system (and its distinctions) and despite the vigorous anti-Hinduism that was widespread from very early in the island, Hindu immigrants and their descendants have conserved their principal beliefs, rites and practices. One may even speculate that the Tamil Diaspora in this society offers a unique ex ample of the
conservation of Hindu practices that are virtually the same as those one could find in South Indian villages in the last century. It is known that people in the Diaspora generally froze their original traditions.
Thus, while it bas been adopted, folk Hinduism bas been maintained in La Réunion almost as it was in India at the time of the emigration. In fact, the main modifications to Hinduism into this French island occur in the contemporary society. Paradoxically, what Tamil immigrants and their descendants have been able to preserve for more than one hundred years of indentured settlement on the island, notwithstanding the church disapproval and the compelled involvement in Christianity, is now radically threatened by the new generation of people of Indian descent themselves. By importing Brahmin priests from Tamil Nadu to officiate in Hindu temples in La Réunion, this new generation is encouraging the adhesion to a new form of Hinduism, defined as the "true" one, in which the worship is principally addressed to 50 called "vegetarian and peaceful gods" (who do not require animal offerings nor priestly possession) like Shiva, Murugan, Vishnu and Ganesh. At a time when cultural and religious differences are-at last-tolerated and even valorized in this multicultural society, this reforming movement is ironically about to succeed in eradicating the folk Hinduism from La Réunion; a thing that Christian priests could never achieve. Simultaneously, people involved in this revival are, in their desire to present themselves as "more Indian," criticizing the elders' complementary practice of Christian religion and starting to take off the Christian pictures from their own living room, replacing them with Hindu ones. It is interesting to notice that the Tamils who criticize both the folk Hindu religion and the alternate practice of the Christian religion of their peers are those who are the more subject to the modem ideology. The youth of Tamil origin grows up in a modem society where cultural differences are more and more valued. Most of them consequently involve themselves in the display of a particular kind of Indianness: not the adapted one, that has overcome the difficulties of the settlement on the island, but a Brahmanic one, that has had for the last decades a strong attraction to western societies. The radical changes that this new generation of Tamil descent is able to realize is not as easy for their elders who have been heavily committed to their beliefs and their life in the folk religion. Folk rites, directed to folk deities, like animal sacrifices and priestly possession, entail a strong emotional commitment that can hardly be suppressed, especially for the old generation who consider their gods to be pre-eminent. Elders definitely consider their ancestors' gods as the most powerful ones. In these conditions they can hardly renounce worshipping them, offering them animals, or invoking them, to see them dance, advise and bless the devotees through the medium of the priest's possession. For these persons who cannot forsake these practices due to society's perception on them, the new propagation of a Brahmanic Hinduism is tantamount to a secular game were devotion to (God is missing. The generational and ideological gap is obvious when we see for instance, a young girl nearby her mother at the temple, the former, in a bright sari with hair cut short in a typically western fashion, and the latter, in a common dress of the island with her long hair, bound in the typical Indian bun. This same old woman keeps going to the church, ostensibly showing a ring with a cross while secretly wearing under her shirt another gold ring with an Indian talisman, highly powerful and auspicious for her; a symbol that the girl, in her modern attitude, would never assume because it is too much connected with some kind of Hindu "superstitions." Moreover, this girl, whose first name is probably "Mary" and whose second name-that of a Christian saint-starts with an auspicious letter chosen according to the Indian astrology, will probably give an Indian first name to her children (a new official possibility that has long been forbidden) without considering the first letter of their name according to the date of birth.
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