HASTINAPURA THE CITY OF WISDOM NEAR BUENOS AIRES
(DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN, BRENTWOOD, TN, USA)
I spent my life for several months in a year in Buenos Aries working on technology transfer as an American expert in my chosen line of study. All that I knew about them was they were easy going people interested in fun, fiesta and tango and are highly Catholic and religiously devoted. They were often joked about as people who are not very serious about their work and everything is manyaana for them meaning to-morrow, not to-day. Argentina is a very thinly populated country with vast mineral resources. The main population is found around the districts of the capital, Buenos Aires. Here we can find the commendable work of another lady Ada Albrecht, like Dr. Annie Besant whom we know and who was the famous president of Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai, India devoted to Hindu Culture, Fine Arts and Spirituality. But she was doing this in a country suited for it. But to bring out such a project, lead it to success and plan further in a country which is highly conservative and Catholic is not an easy job. You will be amazed when you read below a brief outline of the Hastinapura Project. Buenos Aires is worth a visit to know more about this project first hand. Buenos Aires means, a city of Fresh (Good) Air which is rare to find in modern cities.
Hastinapura Project is in the in the vicinity of Buenos Aries for Hindu Gods and the teaching of Vedic wisdom, practice of Yoga and meditation. I have read about the Incas and Maaya cultures, the Sun temples and the Pyramids quoted in my discourses which you should have casually glanced through. The recent developments and actual photographs amaze me. I feel sad that I missed the opportunity to visit this spot though within the vicinity of 50 miles from Buenos Aries. Probably these were not developed when I spent my life during the years 1985 to 1993 in Argentina. My lack of Spanish confined me to limited people as it happened to me in China. My knowledge of German and Russian helped me a lot in understanding their cultures while spending long years there. Knowledge of local language is very essential to make your life interesting while spending time in a foreign soil.
I did talk about Ganesa Idols in many lands referring to Mexico and Peru in my discourses. I did not elaborate. Hastinapura Project in Argentina is a recent spiritual awakening from a non-Hindu while we Hindus are engaged in Kurukshetrra in India. Probably you are aware there is a temple complex recently built in Andhra Pradesh near Hyderabad where all the models of all the holy temples from pilgrim centers of India are reproduced to arouse pilgrimage interest in the religiously inclined devotees. Ramakrishna Math has temples where all deities, sacred symbols or quotes from various religions are displayed though some of the religions do not like idol representation. It is hard to believe such a display of such beautiful idols is coming from a Catholic country from non-Hindus as described below. Argentina leads the beef eating countries. Here to practice vegetarianism is likea tapas (great sacrifice). I had a hard time there. Recently Argentinians want to turn vegetarians being fed up with beef. The lone vegetarian restaurant in Buenos Aries does not serve sugar for coffee or tea for it is purified by animal charcoal, instead serves honey. Of course they are not averse to killing bees so accustomed to butchering cows for their staple food! Hastinapura Project was conceptualized by Ada Albrecht and its future plans are highly commendable and we have a lot to learn in our mission to promote Hindu culture and spiritualism here in USA. A brief description of Hindu migration to Americas before Columbus can be found below to which I had made casual references here and there in my discourses.
HASTINAPURA, THE CITY OF WISDOM PROJECT
The dozen Argentines who live there look after the gods and the place. During weekend, the human population increases to over one hundred. The Argentines do not go there seeking favors as many Indians do in Tirupathi. They go there for wisdom. This is why Hastinapur is called The City of Wisdom (ciudad de la sabiduria).
Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning blesses the students through the sculptures all around the compound. The Argentines learn philosophy, read in the library, practice yoga and meditation and sing Bhajans. On the other side of the fence, there are cows grazing and occasionally staring at the Indian gods. The cows are relaxed and free from fear because they know that they will not become food at the dining table in Hastinapur, which is a vegetarian place. The inmates cook vegetarian food and share it with the children from poor families in the neighborhood.
Hastinapur does not have any god-men seeking fame and fortune and flaunting wealthy followers. It is an institution to pursue pure wisdom, peace and divinity. Neither in the city nor in the website is given the names of those who run the place. The founders and directors of the Hastinapura Foundation do not seek publicity. They are humble but devoted people. They have their professions as company managers, engineers or professors. They volunteer their time and talents for the foundation.
Nor is Hastinapur the work of some overenthusiastic drum-beating Hare Krishna types or faith-led Saibaba followers. Hastinapur respects all the religions and beliefs. Their ten temples include one for Buddha, one for the Virgin Mary, one for the Greek god Demeter and another one called the Temple of All Faiths. Their library has books of all religions and schools of thought. Hastinapur seeks true wisdom, going beyond the boundaries of established religions. The City of Wisdom is not the ultimate destination. It does not prescribe wisdom doses. It simply helps people to seek, find and pursue their own path to wisdom. They give classes in yoga, meditation, philosophy, devotional singing and sacred drama. They organize workshops, seminars and retreats. They also provide community service. They celebrate festivals such as Ganesh Chathurthi and Baishaki. Their next project is to broadcast through radio.
Hastinapur temples do not have priests or other middlemen between the gods and worshipers. There is no money collection, as in Tirupati. Worshipers pray, recite mantras and sing devotional songs individually or in groups. They have a meditation hall for silent meditation as in Vivekananda Rock in Kanyakumari in India.
Hastinapur has a post graduate course in yoga which takes three years to complete. The classes are held in the weekends only. There are 2500 students studying yoga and philosophy in the Hastinapur centers. The students are being taught by 100 teachers on philosophy and 120 teachers on yoga.
Many Argentines go to Hastinapur as a retreat from the hectic city of Buenos Aires which is just fifty kilometers away. They practice meditation in the quiet natural environment. They do yoga, read books from the library, discuss philosophy and join the singing of Bhajans. Hastinapur is an authentic Ashram.
Hastinapur Foundation has published a number of books on Indian philosophy and translated the Bhagavad Geeta, Bhakti Sutras, Upanishads, Srimad Bhaagawatam and Yoga Sutras. Their latest publication is Mahabharatha in Spanish. They have so far published three volumes and plan to do a total of twelve volumes in the coming years. Each volume is over 500 pages. The founder Alda Albrecht and other members of the Foundation have also written a number of books.
Hastinapura Foundation was established by Ada Albrecht in 1981. She introduced Indian philosophy and became a Guru for the Argentines seeking wisdom. She wrote a number of books such as ¨The Saints and teachings of India¨ and ¨The Teachings of the Monks from Himalayas¨.
Gustavo Canzobre was one of her students, who is now the Director of the Hastinapur college of professors. He was seventeen years old when he became interested in Indian wisdom. During the Third Festival of India organized by the embassy in Buenos Aires in November 2010, he gave a talk on the temple architecture of South India. He also gave a talk on Indian philosophy in the Fourth Festival of India in December 2011. He is a manager in a local company for living and dedicates the rest of his time to Hastinapura Foundation. He is knowledgeable about Indian Vedas and Upanishads and is going to India on his second visit in August this year.
The architectural and sculpting work of the Hastinapur complex has been done entirely by Argentines. The architects and sculptors have studied Indian temples and have done their work professionally and aesthetically. Even now they are constructing some more buildings with Indian sculptures and statues. The pond in front of the temple has fresh water and fish. A small outdoor Ganesh temple is in the garden. Lord Siva is sitting majestically in the large garden guarded by Ganesh on the four sides.
Hastinapura Foundation has sixteen centers in Buenos Aires and three more in the rest of Argentina. They have also established centers in Uruguay, Bolivia and Colombia. Information on the Foundation and its activities can be seen at their website http://en.hastinapura.org.ar
HINDU MIGRATION TO AMERICAS BEFORE COLUMBUS
Christopher Columbus (AD 1451-1506) is believed to have discovered America. In reality he discovered few islands between two Americas and small part of Honduras only. Millennia before that, the Americas had not only been discovered but had also been covered with large settlements of Hindu Indian population. The Aztecs of Central Mexico, the Incas of Peru and Mayas of Yuctan (South East Mexico) were all Hindu settlers from Bharat. So don’t be embarrassed that you are somebody’s guest today or think you are the first settler from your family if that be so. Probably we were all victims of Conquistadors. For a detailed study please go through the book Hindu America, written by Chaman Lal, New Book Co., Bombay, 1940. I reproduce below an extract from An Introduction to Hindu Culture by Swami Harshanada of Ramakrishna Math. Only thing is we do not hear much from India on these facts now-a-days. Professor Lakshminarayana of USA in his book Children of Immortal Bliss has given an elaborate description with facts and figures about which I have referred before in my discourses.
“The migration of Hindus and Buddhists from India to the Americas from Alaska to Andes, their establishing colonies there and spreading their religions and cultures millennia before Columbus is now a well-recognized fact. The American Congress held in Mexico-city in 1962, where a number of learned papers supporting this theory were presented, is a proof of the above statement. The historic facts regarding the religions and cultural invasions of the Americas, especially Mexico and Peru is rich and voluminous. The highlights of the same are:
1. The Aztec calendar followed by the ancient Inhabitants was based entirely on the four Yugas system—Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali.
2. Under the Inca rulers, people followed Varnaasrama Dharma as in India. This empire had a population of 20 million spread over 150000 square kilometers.
3. Their ceremonial dances were closely related to that of Hindus as revealed by the Spaniards in 1844.
4. They cremated the dead as Hindus.
5. Temple at Tajan and other temples in Mexico resembled that of Hindus.
6. Archeological monuments of Mexico resemble Hindu Temples and Buddhist Stupas.
7. Their education system followed Gurukula (studying under a Guru at his place living away from parents) System of Hindus.
8. Monogamy and arranged marriages were common as in Hindu practice. Astrological consultation was prevalent before marriage. Seeing the polestar Dhruva was a must for couples. Marriage ceremonies were similar to Hindu Brahmaa weddings and simple as described in Ramayana for Rama and Sita.
9. Hindu images of gods like Siva, Ganesa, Indra, Vaamana, and Narasimha, monkey gods (Vaanara), Adisesha (serpent), traditional temple motifs like lotus and lions were discovered by archeologists. Images of Buddha and wheels were also found in many places. Worship of some of these gods was also prevalent.
10. They practiced temple dancers (devadasi) system. Girls dedicated to temple deity were expected to initiate the sacred fire in the temples which were never extinguished.
11. 11. They believed in Praana and Punarjanama, life after death and transmigration of souls.
12. Widows entered into Sahagamana or Sati as practiced by some in North India, not in Vedic culture but based on lone Puranic instances and customs based on it.
13. Kings went through Pattaabhishekam, a religious coronation ceremony similar to Hindu Kings.
14. Dassara festival was celebrated commemorating the victory of Rama killing Ravana and his retinue.
15. 15. Joint family system, practice of Ayurveda and use of herbal medicines, bazaar system of trading, mass worship and social gathering during ceremonies similar to Hindus, sun worship and many other Hindu practices were popular.
EVIDENCES OF HINDU CULTURE OF PERU
Similar to Mexico in the North Peru in the South has had the maximum impact of Hindu culture and religion even from earlier days than Mexico. The Incas of Peru were none other than Hindus who had migrated by land and sea from India.
The temple of the Sun at Cuzco built with massive stones is a marvel of engineering and architecture resembling Hindu temple architecture. Later this was converted to a church. Spaniards plundered and looted this temple and found immense wealth there.
The Incas were followers of Sun God (Suryavansis) who believed in the cycle of four eons, Yugas. Their almanac were called Panchacta Unnanchae sounding Sanskrit word Panchaanga. The Incas were great temple architects, builders of roads, rest houses and public structures. They had a sound transportation system. Their textiles were famous during their days like muslin from India.
Hindu images like Soorya, Aadikoorma, Ananatanaaga, Goddess Maaya are seen even to-day and Hindu Puraanic beliefs are Popular amongst its folks.
In the past they went through a ceremony called Hauracu similar to Hindu Thread Ceremony Upanayana which every boy at puberty had to undergo.
The Quichua language of the Peruvians is full of analogous Sanskrit words. The word Quichua may itself resemble Kesava.
Some of the prayers of Inca rulers of Peru seem to be the repetition of Vedic mantras. They were used during fire ceremonies resembling Yagas and Homas or Vedic Sacrificial form of worship”.
I quote from the book of Dharma by Jagadguru Chandrasekharananda Sarasvati the following: "You know that the Sagaras went on digging the earth down to the nether world in search of their sacrificial horse. An ocean came into being in this way and it was called Saagara after the king Sagara. The Sagaras at last found the horse near the hermitage of Kapila Maharshi. Thinking that he must be the man who had stolen the animal and hidden it in the nether world they laid violent hands on him, where upon the sage reduced them to ashes with a mere glance of his eye. Such is the story according to the Ramayana. America, which is at the antipodes, may be taken to be Paataala or the nether world. Kapilaaranya (the forest in which Kapila had his hermitage), we may further take it was situated there. It is likely that Kapilaaranya changed to California in the same manner as Quichua for Kesava or Madurai to Marudai (Marudamalai Muruga the Tamils say). Also noteworthy is the fact that there is a Horse Island near California as well as an Ash Island and the Atlantic Ocean which is a Saagara and not Samudra"
Earlier you may have dismissed this as a wild guess or gossip from me or ignored as a mythological bluff. Now that you know this is from Sankaracharya and that you have enough evidence from Peru to substantiate you may do a rethinking as you think about Dwaraka submerged in the sea coming from a Western video presentation I sent to you some time back. Incidentally Ramayana is called Itihasa meaning it happened so to distinguish it from Puranas which deal in parables and myths and you started believing in Deluge of Dwaraka mentioned in Mahabharata another Itihasa supported by the research work of Dr. Narahari of Memphis on Mahabharata War.
It is not without reason that present day priests in American Hindu Temples refer to America as Aindra Khanda in their religious resolutions (Sankalpa). This Project of Hindu Deities and interest in spirituality in the vicinity of Buenos Aires in Argentina, a country which is highly Catholic should come as a surprise to many of us in USA. As you all know you can hardly see any Native American as in Brazil in Argentina. They hunted to the last native and killed them leaving no trace behind of their culture unlike in Peru or Mexico. We see today few Chinese settlers and Koreans in Argentina running business establishments particularly textiles and restaurants.
Hindus have migrated to North America in large numbers and are hardly seen even visiting Argentina. Argentina is thinly populated and is very rich in its animal and mineral wealth. Hindus have built many temples in North America and have established many spiritual institutions as it is a secular country. Probably they are scared by the stories of brutalities of Conquistadores in their long history of settlement in South American countries particularly Argentina which destroyed all traces of cultures of the ancient past though it was once their favorite spot to settle down. It is therefore thrilling to hear about Hastinapura, the City of Wisdom Project and its future plans as described above.
1) Swami Harshananda, An Introduction to Hindu Culture, Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore, India
2) Prof. Lakshminarayana, Children of Immortal Bliss, Bharatriya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
3) Website http://en.hastinapura.org.ar
4) Chaman Lal, Hindu America, New Book Co., Mumbai,India.